As shocking statistics reveal that more than 45,000 people in Gloucestershire could be struggling to cope with a hoarding disorder, Sarah Phaedre Watson spoke to Paul Cooper who supports those in need of help.

Although many will be more used to seeing Paul Cooper as dad to This Country siblings Daisy and Charlie on the television screen (he plays Martin Mucklowe in the award-winning show) his other job is working with those drowning in clutter.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

An estimated 45,000 people have a hoarding disorder in Gloucestershire alone

“I’ve seen everything, from a man who became homeless because he could no longer open his front door for all the objects crammed into his house, to someone who had begun hoarding animals - we had to gently help her to allow us to find homes for 36 cats,” said Paul, who is based in Cirencester.

Unlike someone who is disorganised or untidy, hoarding is recognised by the NHS as a medical condition.

Although some people may be able to function with the excessive stuff that they have crammed into their living space, it is considered a problem when overwhelmed sufferers are unable to live a normal life or their home becomes dangerous.

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Hoarders may become overwhelmed with things that they just can't throw away

“What is happening is that people have formed a really strong connection to a physical object,” Paul said.

The reasons why someone begins hoarding are not fully understood, it can be a symptom of another condition such as depression, anxiety or loneliness. Or it may be due to an obsessive compulsion to collect.

More often than not the illness is triggered by one traumatic event, a bereavement or an illness.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

Paul Cooper also plays Martin Mucklowe on the award-winning show This Country

“One women who I worked with had piles and piles of newspapers, floor to ceiling throughout her house.

“We worked our way down to the bottom of the pile to find that the first newspaper that she had collected was dated from the day after her husband died. It turned out that a neighbour had fetched the daily paper for her for decades after the woman was widowed.

“She cherished it, as it was the only human contact she received. She was hoarding through loneliness for three decades.”

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As an outcome of hoarding rooms may not be able to be used at all

Interestingly, hoarders do not typically come from a particular gender or age group, and rich people as well as those who have little to spend can be equally affected too.

“I know of rich people who have simply bought another house when the first one became uninhabitable because it was crammed to the rafters,” Paul said.

But some sufferers do share similar backgrounds. They live alone, perhaps they had an unhappy childhood.

It could be that they grew up around hoarding and clutter, but by the time a hoarder reaches adulthood the condition can have life-threatening repercussions.

“They can hide away due to shame, reluctant to get help because they feel humiliated.”

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Hoarders' homes have an increased risk of being destroyed by fire

But statistics show that someone with a hoarding disorder is at higher risk of death in case of a house fire.

Figures released by the Welsh Government show that 25 to 30 per cent of fire deaths are related to hoarding.

“Once a fire takes hold it spreads through a hoarder’s house at lightening speed due to the amount of paper-based items they will usually have collected.”

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

In extreme cases homes may become uninhabitable

But Paul, who lives in Cirencester and works for Hoarding Disorders UK, says that help is at hand.

“Gloucestershire has a particular problem with hoarding,” he revealed.

“But we’re getting better at identifying people at risk.”

Hoarding Disorders UK provide support for those struggling with hoarding, and advice and training for those who may come across anyone with the condition through work.

To learn more visit:

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Paul works with people with hoarding disorders to help them overcome the problem