Monday, May 10, 2010

Psychological Fitness: Exploring the nature of hoarding behavior


I never thought I'd be crediting a reality TV show with facilitating psychological awareness of an important issue, but the anecdotal evidence before me is undeniable. During my 20 years of practice, I cannot recall having one in-depth conversation about hoarding behavior for the first 19 years. Now, thanks to the A&E television show "Hoarders," in the past year I've found myself talking about the issue multiple times every week. This TV program has brought hoarding out of the closet and into public consciousness in what I believe is a profound and socially beneficial way.

On one level, it is simply surprising how many people either struggle with this painful issue themselves or who have a close friend or family member who suffers from a hoarding problem. And most everyone else can see at least traces of the behavior in themselves. Perhaps because it is often surrounded by a cloak of secrecy and a sense of shame, hoarding has not been a part of popular psychology until now.

On a deeper level, it's fascinating to explore what it is exactly that we're holding on to when we hoard. Certainly, we're holding on to all of the objects that fill our rooms, garages, basements and attics, but surely these objects are symbols for other things — things that are emotional, psychological and existential..." More

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