CHICAGO (CBS) — Health officials in southwest suburban Grundy County have begun reaching out to people known as hoarders, to provide help for a relatively rare mental health disorder.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports it’s believed that one to two percent of the population is afflicted a compulsion to hoard objects until their homes are overflowing. In Grundy County alone, that could mean close to 1,000 people.

“There is evidence that there may be some genetic component. There is also evidence that it is kind of a learned behavior. If you lived in a family that was hoarded, there is an increased likelihood that you may also develop those tendencies,” said therapist Melissa Wasko, with the Grundy County Health Department.

Wasko has been running a support group for hoarders since January of 2013.

“It’s incredibly troubling for them; some of the words that they use to describe it – guilt, shameful, embarrassed, smothering,” she said.

According to Wasko, the compulsion to hoard gradually takes over their lives.

“They don’t have their friends or family over, because there’s nowhere to sit, or they don’t want them to see how they live. They just have to climb over things. They have to isolate themselves from the people that they love,” she said.

Wasko said therapy can help hoarders get to the root of the problem, and figure out what’s causing their behavior.

She said just coming to the support group, and finding others with the same problem helps.

“It’s not easy for them to talk with people about that; and it’s hard, too, when their family maybe is critical of them and the way that they live. There’s even more resistance for them to be open about it,” Wasko said.

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