Hoarding requires mental health help

By Devan Gagliardo is the program director of the Community Foundation of Grundy County.

Aug. 17, 2017

About four years ago, the issue of hoarding was brought to the attention of several organizations in Grundy County, which prompted the Community Foundation of Grundy County to provide a grant that allowed the creation of a hoarding task force led by a counselor from the Grundy County Health Department.

Hoarding affects about 5 percent of the U.S. adult population and tends to be hidden and kept secret. We have all seen the shows or heard others describe their neighbor, friend, or family member as a hoarder … but are they really?

Hoarding is the acquisition of and failure to discard a large volume of possessions; the clutter makes is difficult to use rooms for their intended purpose; and there is a distress in functioning caused by the clutter.

In other words, people who hoard often have so much stuff they are unable to use rooms in their homes such as the kitchen, have paths through their homes, or can’t sleep in their bed due to their possessions. Yet there is a real attachment to the possessions and just the thought of getting rid of them causes great distress.

Hoarding is not the same as squalor. Squalor is defined as filthiness characterized by rotting food, infestation, and human or animal waste.

A few weeks ago, five of us who sit on the Grundy County Hoarding Task Force were able to attend a seminar in Chicago called “Rethinking Hoarding Interventions” with speakers Dr. Christiana Bratiotis and Jesse Edsell-Vetter thanks to generous assistance from the Grundy Interagency Council and the Community Foundation of Grundy County.

I’ve been to many trainings and seminars in my career and this was one of the best!

It was filled with practical advice for treatment and real-life examples that could assist anyone from counselors to first responders to city code officers when interacting with an individual.

One of the biggest facts the two presenters wanted the group to take away is hoarding cannot be fixed by simply throwing away the stuff. Hoarding has to be treated with mental health intervention because it is a mental health disorder.

Also worth mentioning is that hoarding is often found to co-occur with other mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety order, and attention deficit disorder.

If you or anyone you know has questions about or needs assistance with hoarding you can reach out to the hoarding task force by contacting the Grundy County Health Department at 815-941-3144.

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