The dangers of hoarding

Posted at: 07/19/2013 5:15 PM
Updated at: 07/19/2013 6:43 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

How well do you know your neighbor? A local fire marshal is saying many residents in our area may be hiding a dangerous secret.

Hoarding by definition is the compulsive acquiring and saving of items that have little or no value. Experts say the disorder may cause emotional, physical and social effects but it can also cause a safety hazard for first responders and even neighbors.

On Friday, the Irondequoit Fire Marshal Gregory Merrick shared shocking images with News10NBC. (Warning, some of the images in the video may be disturbing). He said, “Approximately every four to six weeks, we investigate a call that is borderline hoarding or is hoarding. Most of the time the house is well maintained or maintained to the degree of the neighborhood but when they get inside, I would say most neighborhoods are surprised.”

These homes are fire hazards and they are a safety hazard for people who live near these homes and first responders. “When you're trying to move a patient around with that much debris, there's a chance of slipping or pulling your own back or now you end up with multiple patients.”

We took our concerns to Kimberly Vanorden who specializes in this disorder. She said, “It gets worse as people age and people may be having older relatives that are hoarding and they may not be realizing what a problem it can be.”

Vanorden says it's a serious mental issue, one that runs so much deeper than a messy home. “Hoarding is actually a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder. It's not something you can just say stop that. It's a real disorder.”

Experts say it is crucial for friends and family to notice symptoms. If you suspect your loved one may be hoarding items, here are some ways you can tell:

- If they have an inability to throw away possessions
- Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
- Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions
- Indecision about what to keep or where to put things
- Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions and obsessive thoughts and actions
- Do they fear running out of an item or of needing it in the future?

According to the International OCD Foundation, 70-percent of hoarders respond well to therapy. Anti-depressants have helped with the issue.