Glenda hardly invites people to her house. She lives alone and is ashamed of how it looks. Her entire apartment, albeit small, is just full of things that she is unable to dispose. She keeps thinking that she will find some use for her things some day. She keeps all sorts of objects, from old magazines and newspapers to souvenirs she picked up from the different places she has been. She also finds herself buying many things she does not really need, which only add to the pile of things in her house. Because of all her things, she can hardly move around her house. In fact, she has chairs and furniture that cannot be used because they are just piled up with various objects.
Glenda is said to be hoarding. This is a habit that ranges from a common fear of not having something when the need arises to a debilitating pattern of hoarding for its own sake and being unable to let go of the cycle. Some of us might buy a few more of a certain product for fear that stocks might run out, and consequently end up with more items in our cupboards than is really necessary. This habit can reach an extreme when one is unable to distinguish the value of different items, holding all items as equally valuable and being unable to let go of any of them.
When the pattern of hoarding becomes so extreme that clutter in one’s living area gets in the way of using space and furniture efficiently and one is unable to distinguish the relative value of the items being stashed, a more serious problem can be considered. Hoarding can be considered a subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Obsessive doubts often give rise to anxiety that the hoarding habit temporarily assuages, which can repeat itself to form a kind of coping pattern.
Ironically, many people who suffer from this pathological habit of hoarding often do not understand why they do it. In fact, this is one question they keep on asking themselves. The real causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is likely to be an interaction among biological (meaning both biological and neurological) and learned behaviors from childhood. The anxiety that these people experience has been reported to be at a very young age.
Treatment is often a combination of the use of medications and psychotherapy. In psychotherapy, people who suffer this behavior are often taught to deal with their feelings in more effective ways. Their hoarding behaviors are also directly addressed in helping them address their anxious feelings more effectively. They are also taught various strategies in gradually lessening their hoard and slowly managing their clutter.
Learning to moderate one’s standards by accepting that less than perfect is “good enough” is fostered among these people. Discriminating between more important matters that need more detailed attention and other concerns that can be set aside indefinitely (e.g., medication and money vs. extra towels and old newspapers) is crucial in recovery. Ultimately, these people need to define for themselves what is just “good enough.” This will then determine the extent to which they will stash on some items, but maybe not on most.
It’s a long and difficult road to recovery for Glenda, but with continued treatment and conscientious effort, she can get better manage her anxiety and deal with her hoarding behavior more effectively.