Is that paper piled desk or ‘the chair’ where you dump your laundry giving you nightmares? When does mess turn into slob behavior? If you know someone who collects a lot of things with little or no value, and if your roommate is a hoarder, we’ve got something for you.
Real hoarding is different from clutter. Hoarding has severe traits of mental illness, and shouldn’t be taken lightly or masked as laziness. If your roommate is just a slob, that’s another story entirely, but with a real hoarder, you need to proceed with caution.
Lee’s experience – Buried in Treasures
Scientific American came out with the story of one hoarder named Lee Shuer, who got help and then later created a program called “Buried in Treasures.” His hoarding started in his youth, even as he moved from place to place. It became acute after college when he began aiming at acquisitions from the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and tag stores. During workdays, he would prioritize visiting a thrift store rather than eating lunch during his afternoon breaks.
Lee found help through his wife and he slowly learned to catch himself in the act of acquiring something he didn’t need. He learned to challenge his beliefs about the value of his possessions and paid attention to space at home. He gradually learned to get rid of things he didn’t need without mourning their loss.
Lee went on to co-found The Buried in Treasures program, which also turned into the book “Buried in Treasures.” The book has led the way for organized support groups of people with problematic hoarding tendencies, especially ones who cannot afford one-on-one therapy.
It is crucial to know that people dealing with hoarding have to treat their underlying mental health issues, and not just tidy up the place. If you are helping a friend work through their problems with hoarding, it may just be too much to handle on your own.
The primary treatment for hoarding disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy. If they have anxiety or depression, then prescriptions of medicines can be sought.
There are five key signs of hoarding that you should keep an eye out for when you suspect your roommate is achieving hoarder status.
The emotional attachment that comes with hoarding.
Even though hoarders may be requested to clear their stuff by anyone from landlords to roommates, they will most likely react with extreme, aggressive, or emotional reactions that are out of proportion to the request. Hoarders will either avoid the issue or respond with dismissiveness or overt anger. Their emotional attachment with ‘things’ will not let them discard anything. And their slob behaviour might interfere with your days as well as theirs.
Your hoarder roommate might be collecting useless treasure.
Most collected items will seem strange or useless to strangers – worse than having a garage in their bedrooms! This aspect separates hoarders from collectors. Right from old magazines to expired canned food, much of it will seem to have no apparent use. And their slob-like traits might start taking over both your days. According to the International OCD Foundation, hoarders may also develop a sense that inanimate objects have their own emotions.
“I’m a collector,!” says my hoarder roommate.
While collectors may organize their belongings, hoarders will keep disarray of their rooms, and things will just pile up. They often feel like they are collectors and will try to convince you to believe that as well.
Hoarders and private space
Hoarders tend to meet people outside their homes – this is a sign to keep in mind. They become reclusive and feel threatened when someone enters their private space. It’s very challenging to treat hoarders since they don’t accept hoarding as a problem.
Added emotional value to hoarded items.
The Clinician’s Guide To Severe Hoarding mentions that one of the most prominent symptoms of hoarding behavior is “overvalued ideation.” Hoarders ascribe logic to acquiring possessions by giving objects massive sentimental weight or believing that they “may be useful someday.” The Clinician’s Guide says that a hoarder develops “inflated responsibility,” They think that they are the only ones responsible for deciding to keep or discard items, which paralyzes them.
Hoarding can also accompany a fear of contaminating or harming others – if they abandon their belongings. They also get superstitious with an unreasonable belief that throwing something away will result in a catastrophe of some kind.
The best way to deal with this is to approach the problem with empathy. Focus on the person compared to the ‘stuff.’ Be there and set achievable goals, and help your roommate find professional help if they need it.
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