KOLD INVESTIGATES: Help for Tucson's Hoarders - Tucson News Now

KOLD INVESTIGATES: Help for Tucson's Hoarders

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Hoarding disorder is considered to be a serious mental health issue.

At its most basic, hoarding is having an unusual relationship or attachment with possessions. About 5-6 percent of people in the U.S. deal with the disorder.

We talked to a Tucson woman who suffers from the hoarding disorder. For safety, she asked we not reveal her identity but like many hoarders, she's been dealing with it most of her life.

"It's very easy to just want to never speak to any people, never reach out to any people, never have any people in your life," she said.

Her life is hidden boxes throughout her house.

"It is not something that I am comfortable with," she said. "I have way too many possessions for a single person, this is insane."

Rooms are almost unrecognizable as clutter takes over.

"Most people who live like this do not let anybody into their home," she said.

Lisa O'Neill with the Southern Arizona Hoarding Task Force said education is the key.

"People need to know and remember that this is a mental health issue like all the other mental health issues that we're aware of and we're educated on," O'Neill said.

The task force was created in 2012 to help educate professionals -- like health care providers, case workers and law enforcement -- about the disorder.

"It affects all cultures, all income levels, all education levels," O'Neill said. "They could be your neighbors and you might never know."

The task force is also helping hoarders right here in Pima County.

Jennifer Hagan with the Pima Council on Aging helps lead workshops for people hoarding behaviors. She said each class has 30-35 people seeking help.

"We tell them to set up the ground rules," Hagan said. "Invite somebody that won't judge you. That they're going to be there just to listen to you.

"We've had somebody who said 'Hey, I had people over to my house. I had some people over for lunch and to be able to celebrate that, it's wonderful.'"

The hoarder said despite her struggles, her disorder isn't defining her future.

"I've seen people on Facebook who watched the TV show and go 'Oh those people are so sick,'" she said. "Just because they don't have a bad relationship with possessions would think that, that everybody that does is somehow the worst sicko that ever walked the earth."

As she slowly de-clutters her life, she said she wants other hoarders to have the courage to seek help and find order...once and for all.

The woman we spoke with is a part of a local group called Clutters Anonymous, which meets every Sunday at a church near Pima and Craycroft.

They follow a 12-step process to help them manage their hoarding behavior.

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