Keeping It Just In Case

When does being thrifty go from saving things for a rainy day to an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Being Thrifty

In the past people kept bottles and jars for preserve making, and mothballed winter or summer clothes putting them in the attic for the next season. They would have drawers of string, save things ‘just in case’ and generally act in a way that today would be considered hoarding. However, in an era where people had very little, where ‘make do and mend’ was a way of life, and there wasn’t that much in the way of consumer items, or the money to buy them with, it made sense.

However, in today’s throwaway society where everyone is encouraged to buy the latest gadget or fashion, replacing last season’s item with this seasons, keeping everything you’ve ever owned is a recipe for disaster.

Keeping old love letters or your wedding dress for sentimental reasons is understandable, but going through the garbage to save an old sales slip from 5 years ago that was ‘thrown away by mistake’ is a symptom of hoarding. Hoarders can’t bear to throw anything away, and even giving things to the Goodwill can cause them severe anxiety.

Pack Rat Or Hoarder?

They may see themselves as pack rats, but when possessions completely take over their lives, they are hoarders. Piles of old newspapers that have never been read, broken radios & TV’s, junk mail and empty soda bottles can clutter whole rooms. Often chronic hoarders accumulate so much stuff they can hardly find their bed or even the bathroom.

Hoarding can spin so out of control that even important documents, and valuable items or treasures like photos get completely lost and ruined among all the garbage and as the hoarder accumulates more and more stuff.

When challenged about their hoarding by friends or family they will refuse to admit that they have a problem and insist that they ‘need everything’. Even if family members suggest helping them throw things away or offer to send them on a vacation so that the apartment can be cleared out, they can become very anxious and angry.

Sufferers often refuse to allow visitors into their homes, and once it gets past a certain point, it becomes a fire risk and a health and safety hazard. It may even be necessary to call in the social services for the person’s own protection, especially when they are elderly.

What Can Be Done?

It has been debated as to whether hoarding is a sub-type of OCD, a variant of ADD, or a disorder in its own right. The disorder is usually treated with a combination of behavior therapy and OCD or ADD medication. In the elderly, medications used to treat age-related dementia may be more helpful.

Research is underway as to the best way of managing this chronic condition and helping sufferers to control this disorder instead of it controlling and ruining their lives and the lives of their families.

For more information about hoarding, click here.

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