Dear Patricia Marie,I need to do something about my problem. Since my mother died when I was 23, I seem to be unable to throw anything away. I had always been a very organised, sensible person, but after her unexpected sudden death, I initially found I could not bear to part with any of her possessions. It then became that I could not even dispose of anything she might have sat on, or touched, or even just been near. I started buying things I knew she would have liked, because it made me feel closer to her. I kept magazines with articles in which would have interested her. And this has seeped into the rest of my life so that now I discard nothing. My house if full of clothes I never wear, books and newspapers I have never read, packaging, ornaments, worn out bed linen and towels, household appliances that no longer work. The list is endless. Now, at the age of 47, I have very little space in my small house to move around comfortably, and obviously never invite visitors round as they would be horrified at the mess I live in.I do realise that I need to address my problem, but the enormity of my situation scares me, and I just do not know where to start. Occasionally I make a decision to have a clear out, but then panic sets in, and I leave it yet again. I could not bear it either if my neighbours were ever to know about this. What do I do?Patricia Marie says...
Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A sufferer may encounter severe distress at the thought of getting rid of their items. Hoarding can seriously affect their functioning on a daily basis, may cause shame or embarrassment, and can lead to limited or no social interaction. As well as being associated with anxiety and depression, hoarders often experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
It saddens me that you have been struggling alone with this illness for such a long time. You say you don't know where to start, yet, by opening up and writing to me, you have bravely begun the process of change.
A stressful life event, such as the death of someone close, which relates to your experience, can also trigger or worsen symptoms of hoarding. The items have important emotional significance, serving as a reminder of happier times or representing loved ones. At the time, I doubt you grieved properly for the loss of your mum, and keeping items linked to her offered you great comfort. But the reality is your hoarding has created nothing but misery for you.
With the right help and support, you can learn to embrace precious memories of your beloved mum in a more positive way.
You don't have to deal with this on your own anymore. Open your heart to a trusted friend, and remember that very true saying; a problem shared, is a problem halved. No one will judge you for losing your way - it can happen to us all.
Please contact your GP. Recognition, diagnosis and treatment are crucial to recovery. There are two main types of treatment that will help with this disorder: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is extremely effective and can help you to change the thoughts and feelings that drive you to hoard.
For many people anti-depressants may be helpful and may produce more rapid improvement. Intensive treatment can help people with hoarding disorder understand their compulsions and live safer, more enjoyable lives.
I also recommend you contact Mind. This welcoming organisation would be able to allocate you a personal care worker to support you in your recovery, and can also organise practical help to remove the clutter that is causing you so much distress.Mind: 0300 123 3393. www.mind.org.uk