Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding
Before we start to tackle the hoarding problem, let's discuss what we know about how hoarding develops. Doing so will accomplish two important things. First, it will help you understand hoarding for what it is—a problem of emotional, mental, behavioral, and social well-being. Second, it will give some important clues to how to beat the problem. Knowledge is power—the more you know, the better equipped you will be to work toward improving things.
Let's start by defining hoarding as a mental health problem. We realize that these words might be hard for some people to swallow. For some, the words conjure up very unpleasant (maybe even scary) images of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Some people with compulsive hoarding do have these kinds of problems, but most don't and won't. We don't mean in any way to imply that having a mental health problem means that you are "crazy," "damaged," or a "hopeless case." Quite the contrary: many people with compulsive hoarding are smart, witty, and delightful, even though we are well aware that they are suffering. What we do mean is that people with compulsive hoarding are not fully in control of their behavior. They didn't sign up for this. They are hooked into a pattern of behavior that even they cannot fully understand or manage. If you are a person with compulsive hoarding, perhaps someone has told you that your hoarding is due to laziness, personality flaws, or stubbornness. By defining hoarding as a mental health problem, we hope it is clear that we don't agree with these opinions.
So throughout this book, you'll notice that we spend a lot less time talking about your house and a lot more time talking about you—how you feel, how you think, and what you do. From our research and our experience talking with people with compulsive hoarding, we think that much of the problem can be attributed to personal factors such as:
- Trouble processing information
- Emotional attachment to and unhelpful beliefs about possessions
- Reinforcement for avoidance and acquiring