Hoarding experts speak following deadly fire in cluttered Westfield home

Hoarding is one of the most stigmatized mental health issues

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Hoarding is one of the most stigmatized mental health issues.

Experts say it is often the physical manifestation of anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder.

“Some people clutter so much that their bathrooms are full and they will join a YMCA to use a shower,” said Licensed Mental Health Counselor Anthony Smith.

Hoarding can be crippling, unhealthy and in the most severe cases, deadly. Like over the weekend at a home in Westfield where there was a fire. A mother and daughter where inside their home at 40 Park Street. Of of their things made the job of firefighters much more difficult.

Smith told 22News the hoard can threaten your life.

“My colleagues who do deal with hoarding often talk about needing to collaborate with fire department’s at times because of people’s clutter making it impossible for them to escape. People do and have become evicted because of that.”

A counselor told 22News about the various triggers that can manifest a hoarding lifestyle.

“It could be trauma, it could be anxiety, it could be depression, it could be because they have a genetic disposition or just the result of struggles that they have had over the course of their lives,” May Hansen, Licensed Mental Health Counselor said.

And it’s not just random things. Hoarding can also involve animals, collections, or books. Hoarding can be treated with medication and or cognitive behavioral therapy.

There are local resources available for people seeking help with hoarding. CLICK HERE for more information.