Dear Dr G.,
I've been wanting to talk to someone about this for a long time but have been embarrassed. Let's just say that my house is disgusting, cluttered and smells terrible. My mother has always shopped a lot and rarely throws anything away. This has been the case for a long time but got worse about 5 years ago when my parents got divorced. I really don't blame my dad for leaving. I rarely see my father,though, because he moved across the country. So,I am stuck living with my mother in a house with piles of clothes, junk and other things that we have no need for. It has gotten so bad lately that it's hard to walk from the living room to my room.
I have watched the TV shows on hoarding and have offered to help my mother clean out the apartment but she freaks out when I suggest this. I am embarrassed to have friends over and my friends wonder why I avoid having them over. Also, I'm noticing that I'm starting to have some trouble throwing away things as well.
A Teenage Girl
Dear Teenage Girl,
I am so happy that you wrote to me. It seems clear that your mother is suffering from Hoarding Disorder. I would also like you to know that Hoarding Disorder occurs almost equally among males and females and yes it can start in adolescence and gradually get worse with the passage of time without treatment.
In the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSMV) Hoarding disorder is characterized by:
1. the excessive accumulation of objects that lead to clutter
2. an unwillingness to part with these objects
3. an interference with healthy functioning because of the hoarding problem (like inability to socialize etc.)
Also, hoarders tend to get extremely attached to objects almost as if these objects are part of their family. Hoarders worry that they will need these items some time in the future.
I am so sorry that you and your mother have to live in this environment. My guess is that your mother is also dealing with underlying psychological issues like anxiety and/or depression. Approximately,50% of hoarders have symptoms of depression. I suggest that you talk to adults in your life who you trust and you and them can try to get your mom into treatment. The TV shows make treatment look a lot easier than it actually is.Treatment is about a lot more than simply hiring a cleaning crew. Treatment involves therapy in conjunction with a supportive team of individuals who will help your mom part with her valued objects that are in fact considered junk by others
You mention that you are afraid that you are starting to hoard. Hoarding may in fact start in adolescence.The earlier you get treatment for hoarding the better. See if you can get started in therapy. Therapy will be a wonderful place for you to talk about all that is cluttering your mind and home.
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