What is the connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization?
As most of you know I work with vulnerable women as a Case Manager (Mental Health Worker). We believe that almost 100% of women who come through the doors at My Sisters’ Place have suffered from some kind of trauma and/or loss which can lead to some serious mental health challenges.
It was once thought that OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, was the main issue with individuals who were living with “Hoarding Disorder” (which was deemed a Mental Health Illness in the DSM 1V 2013 as its own disorder)
OCD can be an issue of course and is a very debilitating illness as it prevents its sufferers from being able to carry out the tasks of their daily lives. But actually a very low percentage of people are struggling with chronic disorganization or hoarding disorder. I really don’t like labels, I like to get to know people for who they are first, however, it is more prevalent that those suffering with OCPD Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder have a really difficult time with letting go of possessions. OCPD has to do with having a strong sense of control and being perfect or not doing it at all.
There are many vulnerability factors that contribute to the difficulty of having too much stuff and problems with disorganization. It could be that one of your parents was someone who had a lot of clutter and/or challenges with their stuff. Your parent may have been around during the Depression when items were limited and they saved what they could gather. Or maybe you remember going to Grandma’s house and her place was cluttered and disordered but it was so much fun to play and look at her stuff. Another factor could be a parent who was a perfectionist and wanted everything shining clean and spotless. An individual might feel like rebelling and just doing things their own way.
There is a lot of anxiety associated with dealing with clutter. It has to do with how much clutter is comfortable to live with, how much stuff I am bringing in on a day to day basis and the challenge of letting go of items that are not needed or necessary. The anxiety comes from the inability to trust our own instincts, to stop and have some awareness, to pay attention to our feelings (they might be numb to us), and to make decisions about our stuff. There is a lot of anxiety around living in the moment. We are all so busy we can’t even stop to pay attention to our own thoughts and feelings. You may have heard that clutter is all about memories from the past and worries about the future but its usually not about the present. Because being in the present can be painful and uncomfortable. We are looking for ways to soothe ourselves even if this is unconscious. Shopping, acquiring cool stuff, finding treasures, planning for the future, moving stuff around (churning) and avoiding discarding (due to the uncomfortableness of feelings) are all ways we are taking care of ourselves and paradoxically they are also ways that contribute to having too much stuff.
Having an episode of depression or depression that seems to be ongoing is very challenging when it comes to trying to manage your life, your belongings, doing laundry, appointments, money, poverty, getting food, relationships, physical health, mental health, legal isssues, and possibly addictions. An individual may be facing more serious crisis situations such as problems from a landlord, the Fire Department or eviction and consequently homelessness. Self esteem can be a factor as well. I remember a woman who came to our group saying that she had a lot of garbage around her apartment and it said a lot about how she felt about herself.
Most people who have struggles with clutter have had some kind of trauma happen to them. Now please note that not everyone who has trauma issues has clutter issues as there can be other resiliency factors here ie: family supports, good friends, positive people in your life, financial supports, etc.
However, most if not all have had some kind of loss in the past, losing a loved one, a partner, friend or parent and inheriting their belongings, losing a child through death or (maybe even to CAS, Children’s Aid Society), violence and assault, a serious physical health illness, mental health issues, addictions, relationship breakdowns, divorce, moving. All of these traumas which can cause symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I would love to hear from you. Please add your thoughts or comments below…..