What is the connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization?
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 in 2013.
OCD can be an issue and is very debilitating as it prevents its sufferers from being able to carry out the tasks of their daily lives. OCD is an anxiety disorder where individuals struggle with thoughts, feelings and sensations and then engage in behaviours to deal with them.
But actually a very low percentage of people who have OCD would consider themselves to have chronic disorganization or hoarding disorder. It is somewhat more prevalent that those suffering with OCPD Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder also struggle with hoarding. They have a really difficult time with letting go of possessions. OCPD has to do with having a strong sense of control and perfectionism. The idea is that if I cannot do it perfectly then I cannot do it at all.
You can read more about OCPD here:
Maybe one of your parents 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 had to go without. Or maybe you remember going to Grandma’s house and her place was cluttered but it was a lot of 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, wanting to avoid uncomfortable emotions or soothe them and difficulty making decisions about our stuff.
You may have heard that clutter is all about holding on to the past and worries about the future. It is usually not about the present. 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, numbing feelings with drugs or alcohol, planning for the future, moving stuff around (churning) and avoiding discarding are all ways we are taking care of ourselves and paradoxically they are also ways that contribute to having too much stuff.
Mental Health Factors:
Having an episode of depression or major depressive disorder 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 she realized it was a reflection on 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 ie: family supports, good friends, positive people in your life, financial supports, etc.
However, among those who have difficulty with their stuff, 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 or losing all of their belongings due to eviction. All of these traumas which can cause symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can also lead to having a Hoarding Disorder.
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