Hoarding disorders may present a public danger

Date:Feb 22, 2012

The impact on those affected by compulsive hoarding is spreading across the country, with a recent report indicating that more than one million Australians may currently be in the grip of the disorder.

Information sourced by Catholic Community Services in NSW (CCS) has shown that the people forced to live in squalor due to the condition - which is similar in nature to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - are often putting themselves and those around them at risk.

The report - Pathways to Dealing Effectively with Hoarding and Squalor in Australia - explains that the behaviour is a result of "a disabling psychiatric condition characterised by excessive
collecting and extreme inability to discard worthless objects".

It states: "[Hoarding behaviour] can lead to squalid conditions that begin to interfere with normal living which in turn affect the health, safety and quality of life of the sufferer and those who live with them, their neighbours and community."

The danger to individuals who suffer from compulsive collecting can be quite serious, with squalid conditions often presenting trip and fall hazards.

In addition to this, the collections of "worthless material" can often attract vermin such as cockroaches and rats, bringing added risks of disease.

These hazards not only affect the person living in the dwelling - odours can travel quite far and the movement of insects and rodents frequently intrude on surrounding properties.

On top of this, the packed collections frequently include combustible materials - meaning that a hoarder's dwelling presents the increased danger of starting a fire that could cause harm to those around them.

CCS director Annabel Senior explained that treating obsessive hoarding disorders requires specially trained counsellors, as the process is "labour intensive" and requires operatives to visit patients in what can be described as a confronting environment.

"In four years we’ve saved more than 400 people from ending up on the street across Sydney and the Newcastle-Hunter region of NSW," asserted Senior.

"Reducing the associated costs incurred as a result of people cycling through homeless, health and disability services is significant."

The dangers posed to the public by obsessive hoarding activities can be quite significant.

Senior explained: "There are real risks of fire hazard, health problems, and building dereliction with this disorder."

Accidents that result from a lack of care to private property can result in expensive medical care requirements.

A personal injury lawyer is able to help victims recoup these costs, with the added benefit of a no win no fee arrangement to allow individuals to explore their legal options before launching a claim.



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