Saturday, January 2, 2010

Understanding Hoarding - the Pack Rat Syndrome

By Lisa Grundhofer Mayer

We all know someone who may have a propensity to be a pack rat, someone who will never throw anything away. The term hoarding is more commonly used these days to identify a person who lives in the midst of clutter of varying extremes where the clutter has become uncontrollable.

Unfortunately for some extreme hoarders, the situation has become so completely overwhelming, that it has not only affected their relationships, health, and social connections, but has also placed some in legal jeopardy.

Hoarding has been identified as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), although not all people considered to be hoarders have been diagnosed with OCD-related symptoms. Research continues to better understand the psychological background and provide a more distinct mental health problem. Further study of hoarding shows that there are specific types of hoarding as well as specific types of hoarders.

What is a Hoarder? It is not someone who just is too lazy to throw things out, to organize, or is ignorant to acceptable living conditions. It is a disease that has a number of complex areas including depression, OCD, PTSD, and other varying conditions that would identify one as a "hoarder". Those who become hoarders may have an emotional attachment to an item that hold memories for them; hold onto items thinking it would be wasteful to throw out. As the fear of losing a memory or wasting money by throwing an item out increases, the mass of collectibles becomes so overwhelming that the task to clean up the clutter is unbearable. Some extreme cases may also involve rotting food products, animal feces and carcasses, and loss of any usable living space in their home. This presents an enormous issue to both the person's health as well as their family. In many instances, hoarders have faced having county social services remove the children from the premises..."