Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Comments on the New York Times Article

In addition to the New York Times article that I mentioned earlier, its comment thread is rather interesting and worth a look. I chimed in as follows:

While much of the focus is properly on finding ways to treat hoarders themselves, there seems to have been very little attention paid to the treatment needs of the children of hoarders. Indeed, children of hoarders are often mentioned by professionals as being obstacles and problems, rather than as being people in their own right who are hurting and need support at least as much as the hoarders. From the Children of Hoarders website (, it is plain that many COH (myself included) have been raised in conditions of harrowing squalor, and such children often suffer from social isolation, social anxiety, poor self esteem, and many other issues that can last far into adulthood. Given that hoarders tend to be rather refractory to treatment, as well as the lengthy time typically required for treatment of hoarders, I'd really like to see clinicians and other professionals thinking more holistically about the entire family, particularly since, from a utilitarian perspective, family members may well be far more open to and benefit more from therapy and support than the hoarder is likely to benefit, at least in the short term. The short term is particularly important here, since, for a child of a hoarder, the short term may well encompass critical development periods such as early childhood, adolescence, etc.

Dr. Randy Frost, the co-author of "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things", responded to my comment as follows:

You raise a great point. Most of the research has focused on the people who hoard and not on family members. We've done one study of family members and have another under way, but virtually nothing has been done on developing treatments or support groups for them. I believe this will happen. There is such a great deal of research on hoarding now that it is only a matter of time.



Anonymous said...

Why is there so little interest in the families of hoarders? My sister is a hoarder--there are only us two siblings, parents gone, no children. I have spent the last 6 years trying to help her...6 years of my life wasted, sucked dry. I suppose my sister has other problems as well, because she has always been self-centered and difficult. She doesn't care about me in the least and when I tell her that she doesn't disagree. I need help now, not "someday." I cannot do this any more and at this point, I have nothing left.

TEFL Ninja said...

Only be a matter of time ?

The fact that the children are a tacked on afterthought, and the above phrase clearly highlights that is exactly what they are, disgusts me.

Bear in mind that the children often grown up with a sense of being a very poor second to a mountain of stuff in the eyes of their parent(s).

Then professionals *compound* that sense of being a mere peripheral element, with their vague assurances that it's only a matter of time until anybody notices the kids who were given no choice other than to live ankle, knee or waist deep in their parents malady.

Not a great shock then that we can grow up believing it is normal for us to be far down the list of anybody's priorities.

I'm 44 years old. 8 years estranged from my mother. Decades out of the family house. Living in a nice, clean tidy home in another country from my mother. And yet still picking through the detritus of the internal damage that was done. Carefully, slowly, with extreme caution ... even after all this time and distance.

For crying out loud don't fob off the children being damaged today with "a matter of time".

Do something. Now. Make them the absolute, immediate priority. Because it is entirely possible they haven't ever been that for anybody and decades of pain, hurt and damage can be avoided if all the industries and services surrounding this disorder stop treating them like "an issue" they will get around to, at some point, maybe.

Possibly we should charge the people responsible for the humane treatment of animals take on responsibility for the kids too. At least they appear able to notice the sufferers' dependants have real and pressing needs that cannot continue to be relegated in the name of compassion for the mentally ill.

Hoarder's Son said...

Well said, Sarah!

TEFL Ninja said...

Well not that well said because I notice my grammar went to pot all over the place in that post.

I blame 15 years of squashed memories and the shock of a scab being ripped off when I stumbled on a youtube link to an American programme about hoarders. It's been no more than 48 hours since I clicked the link and pus is still pumping from the newly deskinned wound I have ignored for more years than I care to contemplate.

I can't quite believe what I am hearing and reading with regards to the sidelining of dependants and the exaggerated softly softly approach with regards to the piled high symptom of the disorder.

To put that in perspective, my MIL is also mentally ill. I spend more time than I like in psych. wards and waiting rooms, with other patients and their families. While we may carry a heavy load with regards to the manifestations of our loved ones ill health so far no doctor, no professional has suggested we are an irrelevance, nor have they suggested symptoms should be allowed to flourish unchecked, (unless the sufferer agrees to allow others to make teeny tiny changes) in the name of autonomy and avoiding fall out.There is a recognition of how the malady impairs them and how they cannot be given full responsibility for the management of their symptoms.

If this is a mental illness why is it treated in such a wildly different manner, with such a dramatic shift in attitude re the ability of the sufferer to realistically view their symptoms and agree to take action to make themselves and their dependants less uncomfortable, depressed, squashed, dominated, unsafe and dehumanised ?

Forgive the underlying furious tone. I think I may be in some form of shock. Possibly I'll be more nuanced once I get over the fact I have induced some kind of black out in my memories and managed to create something vile that has festered unchecked for so long.

I'm horribly surprised by the depth of my reaction, compared to many parents my mother was not all that bad. Maybe that is something for the professionals to consider. It doesn't have to be extreme enough to pique the interest of a TV show to have a profound and lasting impact.

On a happier note. Thank you. For this blog, for your writing, for drawing the curtain away. I believed her. I thought it was my fault. All this time. It is both a relief on a scale I cannot express, and a pain of immense proportions (which is weird, such contrast) to realise, actually it was not my fault. Fault. Very small word. Big, huge, unrecognised mammoth guilt I have been squashed under whilst living so long in a form of denial I can't quite work put how I achieved.

I just am not sure where to go from here. Just sit and digest a while longer till I no longer feel my head is spinning and the ground has shifted under my feet for a while longer maybe.