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As hard as it is to understand, Dr. Tolin says Carol's hoarding stems from her perfectionism and is not a case of laziness or unwillingness to clean. Carol even says that when she was married she was an extremely conscientious housewife.

"This is a case of perfectionism taken to an extreme," Dr. Tolin says. "Imagine perfectionism taken to the point where the person becomes paralyzed. If you listen to what Carol's saying, she says, 'I don't know where to start. It's overwhelming.' If you imagine picking up something in your hands and feeling, 'This is so important that it would be terrible, terrible, terrible if I made even the slightest mistake about this.' A lot of people find it easier just to put it down and walk away."

Dr. Tolin counsels a new thinking about hoarding. "We need to change our thinking about that and realize this is a mental health issue," he says.

More from Dr. Tolin:
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FROM: Inside the Secret Lives of Hoarders
Published on May 06, 2005

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