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At the risk of appearing both obsessed and self-absorbed (guilty on both counts LOL), I am just posting some excerpts from the wikipedia article's "diagnosis" section and how it applies to me personally, which I found both shockingly on point and validating in some ways.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding#Diagnosis

751 people were chosen for a study[16] in which the persons self-reported their hoarding behavior. Of these individuals, most reported the onset of their hoarding symptoms between the ages of 11 and 20 years old, with 70% reporting the behaviors before the age of 21. Fewer than 4% of people reported the onset of their symptoms after the age of 40. The data show that compulsive hoarding begins early, but often does not become more prominent until after age 40. Different reasons have been given for this such as the presence of family members is more prominent early in life and limits acquisition and facilitates the removal of clutter. The understanding of early onset hoarding behavior may help in the future to be able to distinguish hoarding behavior from “normal” childhood collecting behaviors.

For myself, I'm not quite sure but I know that definitely by the age of 14 I was already doing paper hoarding. Very neat hoarding, but hoarding already. I may have started at the age of either 12 or 13, but by 14, my mother was already complaining about my "collection" and forcing me to throw things away.

A second key part of this study was to determine if stressful life events are linked to the onset of hoarding symptoms. Similar to self-harming, traumatized persons may create "a problem" for themselves in order not to face their real anxiety or trauma and do something about it. Facing their real issues may be too difficult for them, so they "create" a kind of "artificial" problem (in their case, hoarding) and prefer to battle with it rather than determine, face, or do something about their real anxieties.

Important note on this above section: the way in which this explanation is written is surprisingly awkward. Bluntly, I find it bordering on the offensive in terms of the attitude towards traumatized hoarders. I may be taking it too personally, but it really bothers me. I think if a better writer/contributer had written this, there should be no need to put the terms "a problem," "create," or "artificial" in quotation marks. The negative implications here many, not limited to possibly implying that a hoarder is consciously sublimating traumas. I wish I could request a re-write of the writing here.

Continuing with the excerpt.
Hoarders may suppress their psychological pain by "hoarding". The study shows that adults who hoard report a greater lifetime incidence of having possessions taken by force, forced sexual activity as either an adult or a child, including forced intercourse, and being physically handled roughly during childhood, thus proving traumatic events are positively correlated with the severity of hoarding.

Have had these incidents through adolescence, though primarily physical from early childhood onwards. I just wonder how they positively correlate with specifics of hoarding severity.

For each five years of life the participant would rate from 1 to 4, 4 being the most severe, the severity of their hoarding symptoms. 548 participants reported a chronic course, 159 an increasing course and 39 people, a decreasing course of illness. The incidents of increased hoarding behavior were usually correlated to five categories of stressful life events.[16]

I wonder about the use of a 1 to 4 scale here. I've been using the 1-5 scale of hoarding and though I think my general rating is now a 3, some aspects are (or approaching) a 4. I believe even six months ago, I was at a 2-3. I do believe I am at an increasing course.

In general, I wonder sometimes how hoarders can be helped. For myself, at least I am in the camp of individuals who know I have a problem and want intervention or help, but do not have the resources (a.k.a. "money") to find, choose, and manage outside professional services (trained cleaning services) to find it. And there are no, at this point, available agencies or services to intervene. I am not a full #5 (severe, emergency, and potentially endangering not just the immediate household, but neighbors and community) and I am not completely dysfunctional, but I am unable to make, or keep, a significant impact on the hoarding. And like so many of the other hoarders, I don't want the mandatory (emergency services) intervention which means taking everything out and throwing it all away.

The basics of differences between true filth and accumulation. I think when it gets to the point of a sanitation (meaning infestations, bacterial, things rotting and decaying, significant odor and stench, etc.) issue, it must be addressed. Things that are accumulating to such a degree to pose a hazard (things collapsing, seriously blocking ability to enter and leave a household, or significant problems access areas such as bathroom and kitchen), also need intervention.

An idea I had is somehow starting support groups and counseling project for admitted hoarders, or possibly also for those that emergency services and social workers deem to be problem hoarders, even if they are still in denial. I wonder about programs roughly along the ideas of alcohol and drug abuse centers especially since I think sometimes some severe compulsive behaviors have similar roots to alcohol and drug abuse.

Just some thoughts.

Lois Carmen D.
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