Some experts believe that compulsive hoarding is a symptom of an OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), whilst others are now subscribing to the theory that compulsive hoarding is an illness in itself, and that it is possible to suffer from both conditions at the same time. Be that as it may, it is a fact that therapies to combat OCD, do not always work on compulsive hoarders. But where does hoarding begin, and what turns it into an absolute compulsion?
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Within the accepted terminology and jargon associated with hoarding, there are three expressions that help to quantify the various stages, and the progression of the disorder. They are: “Clutter”, Clots, and Clogs.
The word “clutter” is often used to describe something that can easily be moved and tends to be a result of someone who lives their life in a rather disorganized manner. The term clutter is not used to describe the size or the quantity of clutter; it is simply the categorization of a state of messiness. When we consider whether someone is hoarding, the acid test is whether or not the items of clutter are being used, and whether or not the hoarder can part with them easily.
To an outsider, the impression of clutter comes across as “chaos”. However, people often do live in chaos; indeed some people appear to thrive in it and the can often find things when they need to, (granted that it may take some searching to do so). They are however fully prepared to discard the clutter if it becomes broken or otherwise unusable.
The term “clots” comes into use to describe amounts of clutter when they are not used, or even moved, for a period of six months or more. However, the environment in which the clots occur still fulfils its original purpose. In other words, a home still functions as a home, a particularly messy one, but all the rooms, (kitchen. Toilet, bathroom, bedroom etc) are still functioning as they should for their intended purpose. However, any interference with these so called clots can instil feelings of panic or distress in the boarder.
Typical clots include mail. This can start out simply as a fear of what an envelope may contain; bills, final demands, threats of legal action, fines etc. People can just simply be cowed into not wanting to open their mail to read any possible bad news. In some worst case scenarios, there are cases where people have not opened their post for up to three years.
Another common type of clot is laundry. People are sometimes just too lazy to iron, fold, and put it away. What happens is that the uppermost layer gets used just for the sake of some sanitary semblance, but it is the original “foundation” layer of clothing etc that remains untouched, and may stay that way for two years or more in some instances. This untouched layer can also include items that were selected for throwing away, or maybe passing on to a local charity, but which never got that far.
Clots can also include items which are incomplete, such as the materials and the “work in progress” for a patchwork quilt. It is also quite common for clots to contain items that were bought but that have never been used and that are still in their original packaging having never being opened.
Clogs are the worst case scenario as far as compulsive hoarding in concerned. They are a sure fire indication that the hoarding has reached chronic levels. Hoarding can be deemed to have happened once all of the various clots get stuck to each other. A typical clog is when a particular room, say the spare bedroom has been selected as the storage area for the clutter. The clutter grows, and grows until is actually becomes impossible to even open the door. That room then ceases to be become a spare bedroom. It is simply one huge clog of clutter. This can happen to the entire house or apartment, and when this occurs, it is described at a completed clog. The environment of the chronic hoarder is almost impossible to navigate as most of the doorways are either partially or fully clogged up with clutter. The hoarder becomes a prisoner of his or her own clutter in the self clogged home.
Once these completed clogs have developed, it is a sign that not only has the hoarding reached a chronic stage, but that the hoarder is out of control and is in desperate need of help to learn how to de-clutter their home, and get some sort of semblance of normality back into their environment.
The original hoarding compulsion may have had some sort of logic and reason when the compulsion first started; but as it progresses, the illness becomes totally illogical and beyond any reason. This sort of chronic hoarding can only be treated with professional help, by people who are specially trained to understand the compulsion, and who skilled in constructing therapies to help a hoarder to return to some sort of normal life. It is often impossible to completely cure the urge to hoard, but it can at least be managed, and that is what these professionals will do; train the hoarder in how to manage their condition. The best way to find an appropriately skilled professional is by carrying out an online search under “managing compulsive hoarding.”
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