The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the gold standard guide for mental health professionals, formally recognized hoarding as disorder in 2013 and the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation estimates that one in 50 people suffer from this condition. Individuals with hoarding disorder have difficulty getting rid of everyday items, and as a result collect things that serve no clear purpose. The volume soon become overwhelming and often hazardous. Children of hoarders may struggle to break through to their parents, while parents often feel a deep sense of shame about their condition.
Gently Help Them See Hoarding as a Mental Problem
Some scientific evidence suggests that hoarders may accumulate excess belongings because they view each item as overly important and sentimental. To help your parents recognize their problem with hoarding, begin with a gentle and non-judgmental approach. For example, you might mention that you’ve noticed a lot of stuff piling up in the living room and worry about their health. Judge their reactions and respond accordingly. In many cases, hoarders have insight into their problem and simply feel helpless about the mess. Provide information from the OCD Foundation and other scientific communities that may help your parents recognize that their condition is known and treatable.
Find an Area Specialist in Hoarding or OCD
Because hoarding disorder has only recently entered the public worldview, it may be challenging to find a qualified treatment professional in your area. Some hoarders respond to a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), so it is worthwhile to set up an appointment with a psychiatrist who is familiar with hoarding. Psychotherapy is another successful treatment for hoarding disorder. Look for a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, skills training, or motivational interviewing, which have empirical support. If a hoarding specialist is not available in your area, therapists who work with individuals with OCD are likely use similar techniques as those employed for hoarding disorder.
Approach the Clean-Up Process Gradually
With a house full of clutter, you may be tempted to set aside a weekend and purge everything all at once. However, this action may be jarring and too sudden for your parents, and could result in resentment or a strained relationship. Instead, take a gradual approach to cleaning. Ask your parents to choose one room to de-clutter. Make arrangements for an on-site dumpster to dispose of waste quickly and easily. Most dumpster rental companies offer delivery, trash removal, and pick-up all in one fee. Find out more by visiting NextDayDumpsters.com and reviewing their options.
Encourage Them to Seek Social Support
Hoarders typically avoid inviting people into their homes because of the mess. The result can be a life that is stressful and socially isolating. For many individuals with hoarding disorder, joining a support group can be helpful. Your parents can meet other hoarders who are struggling to overcome their problems. The International OCD Foundation maintains a list of support groups by geographical region.
It’s also important for you to stay mentally balanced during this challenging time. Helping your parents cope with their mental illness is physically and emotionally exhausting. A support group such as Children of Hoarders allows you to share your experiences and learn from the strategies that other children have used to help their hoarder parents.
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