From the outside looking in, hoarding and substance abuse might appear to be unrelated. In reality, the two can often accompany each other and jointly worsen the quality of life for the affected person. Compulsions like these can quickly downward spiral for a patient, resulting in a life filled with chaotic uncertainty and ongoing anxiety that can be crippling at times. These disorders, especially when joined together as a part of a dual diagnosis, can become highly invasive of the sufferer’s life, corroding a person’s life at home, at work, in school, and beyond. Because of the debilitating potential these disorders possess when existing in a co-occurring state, it is important that this dual diagnosis is addressed and understood by anyone who suffers from the conditions or knows someone who does.
Some people feel compelled to acquire and hang on to material possessions. They attribute meaningfulness or other sentiments to these items and that inhibits their ability to filter through their items. In extreme hoarding cases, a person with this compulsion might live in a space that is difficult or even dangerous to inhabit. Piles upon piles of possessions might block exits and entryways and pose a fire hazard to those who live in or visit the home, for example.
When hoarding is taken to this extreme of a level, it is considered to be a symptom of disorder. People who hoard at this level experience great emotional distress and anxiety over the thought of parting with their possessions.
The homes of people with hoarding disorder are defined by their excessive clutter. The surfaces and storage spaces in these homes are typically completely covered or full of things and oftentimes, there are so many things in the home that the floors and even exterior living spaces, like garages, become enveloped by clutter as well. On top of the dangerous situation so much clutter can present on a practical level, people with hoarding disorder also usually live in a space that is unsanitary because of the difficulty they experience with simple functions that require disposing of things – like getting rid of garbage.
This disorder can be incredibly severe and stand in the way of a person’s ability to function normally in life. Approximately three to five percent of people living in the US are thought to have a problem with hoarding. While hoarding often involves the excessive collection of material things, it can also manifest as animal hoarding in some cases.
When a person hoards animals, they keep a high number of animals in their possession, and they are unable to give the individual animals the love and care that they require. In many places, there are laws in existence that help to regulate the possession of animals in order to prevent animal hoarding, which is often considered to be a form of animal cruelty and abuse. Animal hoarding puts both the animals involved as well as the humans at risk for disease and other consequences of an unsanitary living space. People who struggle with a hoarding disorder may self-medicate with substances to address their underlying mental health and emotional issues.
Substance abuse is the use of drugs to a damaging degree. Both substance abuse and addiction have been known to run in families, which may put certain individuals at a higher risk than others, but substance abuse can affect anyone. Substance abuse can deeply impact the lives of those afflicted as well as their loved ones, especially those who might depend on the substance abuser. The consequences of substance abuse are largely dependent on the drug being used and the individual’s circumstances. These repercussions might include serious health problems, trouble with the law, and injuries to oneself or others. It has been estimated that 23.9 million Americans over the age of 12 had some sort of substance abuse problem – including the use of an illicit drug or the abuse of a psychotherapeutic medication – in the year 2012.
It is estimated that addiction to drugs and drug abuse cost American taxpayers nearly $534 billion each year. This expense, which is considered to be preventable, encompasses expenses associated with law enforcement, including jail and prison costs, health care and general treatment, crime, and other related expenses. Because substance abuse is not only an expensive problem for the US to have, but also one that affects the American workforce and overall quality of life for citizens, it is important that resources are directed toward the prevention of substance abuse. There are many programs in place and resources that exist to help prevent the development of substance abuse.
A few of these types of prevention resources that exist for the public are:
Mental health disorders such as hoarding often coexist with substance abuse. The kinds of drugs used and abused by hoarders vary – one hoarder might prefer alcohol while another prefers prescription pills. One of the reasons why hoarding oftentimes occurs alongside substance abuse is because both have addictive qualities. It is not uncommon for those with addiction problems to become addicted to different types of behaviors.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a hoarding disorder and substance abuse are:
Although the signs and symptoms of substance abuse will vary depending on the substance being used, some of the more general signs and symptoms of substance abuse are:
Just as hoarding cannot be treated by the mere removal of hoarded items, substance abuse cannot be treated simply by removing the substance from a user’s life. These problems have deep psychological roots, and they must be addressed if hoarding and substance abuse are to be concurrently treated.
Although some studies show that a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and a mental health disorder only occurs in fewer than five percent of people with hoarding problems, it’s important that both addictions are treated if they do coexist. If you are, or your loved one is, experiencing a substance use disorder alongside a mental health disorder, we can help. Please call to talk with one of our admissions coordinators about your options.
Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse & Mental Illness