Hoarding Disorder Requires Compassion, Author: Barb Hemberger
Janet Yeats, MA LMFT
Author: Barb Hemberger
A group of Twin Cities social workers and other senior worker professionals learned about hoarding disorder during a recent CEU meeting of the Minnesota Nursing Home Social Workers Association—Twin Cities (MNHSWA). The meeting was held at The Residence at North Ridge in New Hope.
Marriage and family therapist Janet Yeats, MA LMFT, and former co-founder of the Hoarding Project, said hoarding is an anxiety disorder, not an addiction. It’s a mental health disorder that has public safety implications, and effective treatment must address both.
It’s not about ‘the stuff’ that people hoard,” Yeats said. “Almost every person who hoards has experienced a lot of trauma and loss, and that’s why they do it.”
She added, “It’s way more important to understand why the behavior is happening and have compassion. It’s often very hard to follow the logic of why the stuff is being kept and not discarded. The things they keep and acquire are their belongings and they have the perspective that they may need it someday.”
Overcoming hoarding takes time and patience and she said families need to have empathy and possibly seek help in how to address it. The natural solution of cleaning and organizing the home doesn’t work as before long, it will be back to its original state.
Unfortunately, there is very little research (and funding) on the number of people who hoard, but anecdotal reports from fire departments and housing inspectors estimate that 10 percent of the population hoards. In some parts of Minnesota, it’s 25 percent.
She clarified a few misconceptions about hoarding:
- It’s not true that older people hoard more than younger people. It could be anyone.
- Also, it’s untrue that people with lower incomes hoard more than those with higher incomes. This impacts any income and education level.
- It’s also false that women hoard more than men.
For more information, Yeats recommended several books, including: Digging out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding and Compulsive Acquiring (2009), Tompkins & Hartl. And, The Hoarding Handbook: A Guide for Human Services Professionals (2011), Bratiotis, Sorrentino Schmalisch and Steketee.
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