Young people not spared from hoarding disorder

An expert says one in every 50 people in Malaysia are likely to be hoarders

By SHANIKA ABDULLATIB / BERNAMA

MIKAYLA Razali is at her wits’ end. Her apartment in Kuala Lumpur (KL) is literally bursting at the seams, no thanks to her husband’s habit of accumulating things and his refusal to discard items that are of no use.

Izham (not his real name), a 27-year-old architect, is an avid hoarder and Mikayla only discovered this after she married him three years ago.

“What worries me is that he refuses to throw away any of his possessions even if they can’t be used anymore. Once he flew into a rage after I got rid of his tennis racquet which was broken.

“There was also a time when I came across an exercise book that he had used when he was in Form Five. When I asked him why he still kept it, he said he didn’t have the heart to throw it away,” said Mikayla, 27, who works as a private tutor.

She would get into a fight with her husband each time she attempted to declutter their home.

“There’s a particular room in our apartment which I want to turn into a guest room or home office, but it’s filled with things my husband has collected and which he refuses to part with.”

Izham stores his “useless” possessions neatly in boxes or special containers, but over the years, the number of boxes has increased and today, they are stacked up to the ceiling.

Mikayla said she became worried after she read an article about hoarding disorder last year and found out that hoarding may be caused by psychiatric issues.

“I persuaded my husband to see a psychiatrist. It was hard for him to accept the truth, but I told him he should see a psychiatrist if he loved me. I believed his disorder would not only affect our relationship, but also have an effect on his own life,” she added.

Need Expert Help
Businesswoman Zarimah Ishak, 24, developed a penchant for collecting and storing things when she was 10 years old and to date, she is still at it. Her “collection” includes items she had amassed since primary school and college.

Her family members, and later the tenants she shared her house with in KL, would often quarrel with her over her habit.

What worries me is that he refuses to throw away any of his possessions. Once he flew into a rage after I got rid of his tennis racquet which was broken, says Mikayla referring to her husband

“When I first started working, it was one of my colleagues who noticed my strange habit and advised me to see an expert. It was hard for me to accept the fact that there was something wrong with me, but I plucked up the courage to see a psychiatrist. Thank God, I am already seeing some improvement,” said Zarimah, who is still undergoing treatment for her hoarding disorder.

Hoarding disorder is a condition that makes it difficult for people to throw things away, whether or not they are in good condition or damaged.

Although the disorder is often associated with senior citizens, working people and youths are not exactly exempted from it.

Head of the counselling unit at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Dr Fauziah Mohd Saad, told Bernama extensive studies on hoarding disorder have shown that the condition often occurs at a young age.

She said the condition worsens as a person grows older and that it can even be inherited.

“This disorder is listed as a mental health disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (published by the American Psychiatric Association),” she said.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Associate Prof Dr Richard Ng, chairman of recycling organisation Koperasi Alam Hijau Perak Bhd (Kohijau), has been quoted by the media as saying that one in every 50 people in Malaysia are likely to be hoarders.

He said Kohijau members have seen many cases of hoarders when they made door-to-door visits during a dengue prevention campaign.

“Follow-up action must be taken because hoarders are endangering themselves and the local community. Hoarders have to see a counsellor or psychiatrist in order to overcome their disorder,” he said.

Fauziah, meanwhile, said an appropriate treatment for hoarding disorder is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) where the therapist will help the hoarder to reduce his/her feelings of anxiety.

“This treatment is carried out over eight to 10 sessions, where the patient will be taught to declutter and arrange his/her things in an orderly manner.

“This is important because hoarders feel that they have to save their possessions as the items may come in handy in future. Not only that, but they also have this desire to keep adding things to their collection,” she explained. — Bernama