Friday, February 26, 2010

Hoarding vs. Being a Packrat

How Much Clutter Is Too Much?

By Mary Kearl

You've read the headlines: After being reported missing for seven years, woman is found dead in her house, lost among the clutter. Woman suffocates and dies under collapsed piles of clothes. Male trash hoarder dies in labyrinth of garbage tunnels.

Some articles call them hoarders, others call them packrats. These stories seem extreme and isolated. But according to
new research from the University of Michigan Health System, hoarding presents a real danger, not only for those who do it but also for their neighbors -- creating fire hazards, as well as unsanitary, unsafe conditions. In addition, hoarders face the real prospect of becoming buried under an avalanche of trash. Researchers note that treating hoarding is difficult because people who suffer from it don't see it as a problem. According to the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation (OCF), an estimated 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States are believed to have compulsive hoarding syndrome, a sub-condition of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The OCF defines hoarding as "the acquisition of, and inability to discard, worthless items even though they appear (to others) to have no value ... [Hoarders] have symptoms of indecisiveness, procrastination, and avoidance ..."

In the gallery below,
Jeff Szymanski, Ph.D., executive director of the OCF, explains the differences between packrats and obsessive hoarders and just why someone may become a hoarder. Plus, read an excerpt that details how hoarding has affected two people first-hand -- and their families..." More