Disposophobia (Fear Of Getting Rid Of Stuff)

Disposophobia (fear of getting rid of stuff) prevents individuals from throwing items out, even if they have no particular financial or sentimental value.

What is disposophobia?

When individuals have an extreme fear of throwing things out or getting rid of them, they may be diagnosed with disposophobia. While many people dislike throwing things out, people with disposophobia have an extreme response to the mere thought of getting rid of stuff.

In order to be categorized as a phobia, rather than a straightforward fear, the patient’s feelings must have an impact on their daily lives, provoke their fear response and have been present for at least six months.

Although it may make sense to keep certain things which may prove useful in the future, individuals with disposophobia are unable to throw any items away, even objects which have no value at all. For example, disposophobic patients may keep magazines and newspapers for years, even if they have read them from cover-to-cover. Similarly, people with disposophobia may keep old receipts, used envelopes and even used food packaging, due to their fear of throwing anything out.

When a person suffers from disposophobia, their intense fear often results in them exhibiting hoarding behavior. As they feel unable to throw any items in the trash, they begin to hoard things in their home or in garages, sheds, and outhouses. In some cases, individuals with disposophobia may even purchase or rent additional space in order to keep their items. Similarly, people with disposophobia may use their garden or yard to store objects they feel unable to part with.

When hoarding behavior is exhibited, the patient’s condition begins to have a significant impact on their family, friends, and roommates. Despite protestations from loved ones, people with Disposophobia may refuse to part with anything at all. It is not uncommon for people with hoarding tendencies to actually create a safety risk due to the number of items they attempt to keep in their home.

For some disposophobic patients, the thought of throwing anything out triggers their phobic response. For others, their disposophobia may be centered around a particular type of object. Individuals may feel unable to part with plastic items, for example, as they could be washed and re-used at a later date. Alternatively, people may feel unable to overlook a stray animal, which can lead to animal hoarding.

What are the symptoms of disposophobia?

Patients with disposophobia tend to feel extremely anxious if they think about getting rid of stuff. In most instances, individuals will attempt to throw things out but fail to do so when their anxiety levels increase. After repeated episodes of anxiety, the patient simply refuses to throw anything out at all and will not consider getting rid of stuff.

As the size of their hoard increases, individuals with disposophobia can become isolated. If they are aware that their behavior is rational, patients may feel very embarrassed about their hoarding and stop letting family and friends visit their home. The condition can also cause friction between family members and friends. If people are aware of the patient’s condition, they may try and reason with them. When they are unable to persuade them to part with items, they may issue ultimatums or force the patient to get rid of stuff. Although loved ones are usually well-meaning, these efforts to reduce the patient’s fear are likely to be unsuccessful. As the patient’s fear is challenged, they may isolate themselves further and stop engaging with anyone who tries to modify their behavior.

When patients are faced with the prospect of getting rid of stuff, their disposophobia is likely to cause a panic attack. This is an acute period of anxiety, involving psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. During these episodes

patients may experience the following symptoms:

  • Intense feelings of discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shaking
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of despair
  • Desire to escape
  • Palpitations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of terror
  • Rapid breathing

Disposophobia and subsequent hoarding can also have a long-term impact on the patient’s physical health. As well as feeling chronically anxious and stressed, individuals can be exposed to health risks due to hoarding. Due to the sheer number of objects in or around their property, patients are unable to clean their homes or lands appropriately. Even if they attempt to do so, they are unable to maintain a hygienic environment due to the volume of goods in unsuitable places. As a result, they may be more prone to illness.

This can be particularly problematic for patients with animal hoarding tendencies. In the vast majority of cases, patients are unable to care for the animals appropriately and this can lead to unhygienic and unsafe environments for the patient and the animals. In such cases, urgent treatment and intervention may be required.

What causes disposophobia?

Like most phobias, the causes of disposophobia can be varied. Experts believe that disposophobia can be caused by numerous factors, such as:

  • Neurological diseases and conditions
  • Mild brain atrophy
  • Learned behavior
  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • Stressful event in the patient’s life

Although research is in its early stages, some experts believe that patients with existing neurological conditions, such as dementia, ADHD, and autism, may be more prone to disposophobia. Similarly, patients with OCD, addictions and/or schizophrenia, may have a higher chance of developing disposophobia and exhibiting hoarding behaviors.

Similarly, studies conducted on patients with disposophobia appear to show that patients have a higher rate of mild brain atrophy than the general population. The frontal lobes of the brain are responsible for decision-making and executing functions. If these are affected by atrophy, it may explain why people with disposophobia are unable to make seemingly rational decisions when it comes to getting rid of stuff.

Although disposophobia may have a neurological basis in some cases, it can also be caused by other factors. If an individual grew up in a home in which parents hoarded items, they may be more likely to develop disposophobia themselves. Learned behavior is a common cause of phobias, as fears can be passed on from one person to another.

In addition to this, traumatic experiences can cause phobias to become apparent in later life. If someone experienced a painful event as a child and the incident was connected to throwing something out or losing something, this could be enough to trigger a long-term fear of getting rid of stuff.

While many phobias are rooted in childhood experiences, stressful events during adulthood can also trigger disposophobia. If an individual loses a loved one due to a death or experiences a divorce, for example, they may find it difficult to cope with the loss. In a bid to prevent further negative emotions, the individual may develop a fear of losing anything else and disposophobia may occur.

Can disposophobia be treated?

Although disposophobia (fear of getting rid of stuff) can be treated, it may take some time for the treatment to take full effect. In addition to this, treatment may need to be adapted or modified, depending on the cause of the condition and the patient’s response to intervention.

In some instances, patients may benefit from taking medication. Anti-anxiety medicines and medication to reduce obsessive thinking can often help to reduce the symptoms of disposophobia. While this won’t alleviate the patient’s fears, medication can help the individual to function on a day-to-day basis and may increase the effectiveness of other forms of therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy can also be used in order to understand the patient’s fears. Often, these forms of therapy are used to challenge the patient’s thinking and to help them identify a healthier way of life.

While treatment of Disposophobia often focuses on the emotions behind the condition, practical action should also be taken. If the patient feels able to allow other people into their home to assist them, a professional cleaning company can be used to help improve their living environment. Specialist firms who focus on helping people with disposophobia and hoarding tendencies can be extremely helpful when it comes to assisting patients and de-cluttering their homes.

While disposophobia may appear to be a straightforward condition, there can be complex reasons behind the patient’s fears. Although some patients may be unaware of what caused their phobia, successful treatment will often focus on issues which preceded the onset of disposophobia and which may have contributed to the development of the condition.

Preventing disposophobia (fear of getting rid of stuff)

It may be difficult to prevent someone from developing disposophobia, particularly as the causes of the condition are still under investigation. However, if an individual has a related condition or a condition which has been linked to disposophobia in some way, such as ADHD, interventions may be made to reduce the risk of disposophobia occurring.

Physicians may be aware that people with mild brain atrophy may be more prone to disposophobia, for example, and may prescribe appropriate medication to reduce the individual’s anxiety. If treatment is started quickly enough, this may prevent an individual from developing disposophobia, rather than simply treating the symptoms of the condition once it has become apparent.