A few weeks ago, while getting a foot massage, I came across an Oprah show which featured a two part series on the “Secret Lives of Hoarders” this week, and featured two empty-nesters named Sharyn and Marvin.
I was surprised to see this particular episode, as someone I knew was also suffering the same disorder. What's more revealing is that it was actually a psychological disorder, and not a personal quirk!
It all now makes sense, as said person is also suffering marriage problems, financial problems, and even interpersonal problems.
Imagine almost each and every living space filled with junk waist high! This happened when each piece of new or old items are placed on top of each other over the years like bricks! Conveniently, the dump seemed like mountains of garbage, with only a narrow pathway to get from door to bed or door to door! I kid you not!
In the Oprah show, Sharyn's garbage amounted to 75 tons of garbage (that’s 15 industrial sized dumpsters), the 100 member clean up team filled more than 1,800 large crates of items from the home, enough to fill three semi trailers. They had to hire what was called Organizational Expert Peter Walsh to lead the cleanup team and to professionally talk to hoarder Sharyn.
According to neatorama, More than 75% of the home’s furniture was destroyed by black mold and other infestations. The clean up team found food dating from 1994 in the basement, dozens of umbrellas, a long forgotten pool table and thousands of gifts Sharyn had purchased but never given away.
It took a little more than 8 weeks to complete what was originally scheduled to be a two week project. After all the unwanted belongings were cleared from Marvin and Sharyn’s house, the team rented a gigantic 10,000-square-foot warehouse to hold a rummage sale. The family profited more than $13,000 from the sale, which included more than 3,000 handbags and 3,000 pairs of shoes.
When Peter takes Marvin and Sharyn in to see their rummage sale, Sharyn is stunned by the sheer number of things she sees piled on the tables. Then Peter reveals a second room with almost as many items as the first. "It's sick. It is so sick," Sharyn says. "I feel like a monster has been unleashed. But for the life of me, I cannot believe I even had that path to walk [in the house]."
Hoarding is usually considered a subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Like other compulsive behaviors, hoarding is an effort to manage the anxiety raised by obsessive doubts. There are varying levels of hoarding behavior. A diagnosis of OCD of the hoarding type is made when there is significant distress or disruption to feelings of self-worth, interpersonal relationships, education, occupation, housing, finances, legal issues, or health as a result of hoarding behavior.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include:
Saving items seen by most people as unneeded or worthless, (i.e., not true collectibles).
Compulsively buying or saving excessive quantities of items of any kind.
Treating all saved items as equally valuable–whether or not the object has sentimental, financial or functional value.
Experiencing intense anxiety or distress when attempting to discard-or even think about discarding-what most others view as useless objects.
Engaging in saving activity to combat anxiety-provoking thoughts such as: "What if I run out?" "What if I need to know something and don't have the information available?" "What if I put it away and can't find it?" "What if the way I organize it isn't the right way?" "What if I throw it away but the day comes when I really need it?"
Being unable to use furniture, rooms, or entire homes in standard ways due to saved items.
Significant deterioration in housekeeping due to excessive clutter.
CAUSES: There appears to be a strong genetic component to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of the hoarding type. Modeling and conditioning may also play a role in the development of this disorder. OCD usually involves over-activity and/or under-activity of brain regions that underpin the observed behaviors. Hoarding worries and behaviors can begin in childhood, even as young as age five.
TREATMENT: Combining psychotherapy, exposure therapy, and medication can help individuals to make beneficial changes in their lives. Psychotherapy involves exploring the impact of learning, triggers, worrisome thoughts, and intense emotions. Exposure therapy involves practicing new ways of responding to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that arise when hoarding behavior is challenged. Exposure therapy is often conducted in the home with pragmatic emphasis on both reducing the clutter and managing the doubt and anxiety that perpetuate the clutter. The key is learning to "allow" feelings of anxiety to be present without attempting to neutralize them by saving things. Medications used to treat anxiety and OCD (e.g. Paxil, Luvox, etc.) and to sharpen attention (e.g. Ritalin) can be helpful. Co-morbid conditions such as depression may also need to be addressed.
-source and more at anxietyandstress.com
A view looking through the front door of Terri Amato's mobile home in Tarpon Springs reveals her obsession with hoarding everyday items. Sun Valley Estates recently foreclosed on the home, the mess intact months after she died. –from st.petersburg times
Other pictures of houses of hoarders: