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Christman 1 Lindsay Christman Asher John, Instructor The Research Proposal 11-16-10 The Truth That Remains Within The significance of health concerns in people who compulsively hoard Introduction Have you ever thought about all the people that you see on a daily basis? The people that you encounter with on a daily basis, you might personally know and spend time with every day or happen to brush up against some stranger in a crowded elevator. Unless you personally know a person and have seen their living habitats, you normally do not think about how someone lives, or if they happen to have a mental disorder. “Compulsive hoarding, otherwise known as disposophobia, is a condition that is characterized by the acquisition of, and willingness or inability to discard, large quantities of seemingly useless objects that create a significantly cluttered living space, and causes considerable distress or impairment in functioning� (Frost, 2010). The conductive methods that I have used to conduct my research was the use of online and library investigation. I will be discussing a case study on compulsive hoarding and how it affected the lives of the individuals controlled by the mental illness. I also will be observing the case study on two American men by the names of Homer and Langley Collyer, in which they were diagnosed with compulsive hoarding. After that I will also add in additional examples of this mental illness and how it affects individuals. Compulsive hoarding causes health deficiencies and can terminate a person’s overall lifestyle.


Christman 2 Finding Answers When I began researching this topic, I had some very specific questions in mind that I wanted to find answers to so I could narrow down my answer. I began wondering how these problems would have a certain impact on the individual and what exactly consisted of compulsive hoarding. I start out by asking a series of questions concerning the disorder and the answer to these questions through empirical sources. What do you specifically know about compulsive hoarders? According to Hartford Healthcare, which is located in Hartford, Connecticut, stated, “Compulsive hoarding, which may affect up to two million people in the United States, is often found in patients with other diseases, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and anorexia. It’s most often seen in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder” (“Anxiety Disorders Center: Compulsive Hoarding”, 2010). As of right now, compulsive hoarding is considered by many researchers to be a type of obsessive- compulsive disorder, but to some people compulsive hoarding may also be related to impulsive control disorders, depression, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and certain personality traits. What causes this mental illness? “It is thought to result from problems in one or more of these areas, such as information processing (difficulty categorizing their possessions and trouble remembering where things are), beliefs about possessions (they feel a strong sense of emotional attachment toward their possessions and/or feel a need to stay in control of their possessions), and emotional distress about discarding (they might feel very anxious or upset when they have to make a decision about discarding something or they try to control their uncomfortable feelings by avoiding making the decision by putting the problem off till later)” (“Anxiety Disorders Center: Compulsive Hoarding”, 2010). It is also known that this mental illness may run in families and that many people with this illness do not recognize how bad the problem really is.


Christman 3 Case Studies As an example, I will be talking about two middle-aged American men in the 1930’s, where they lived in Harlem, NY. Their names were Homer and Langley Collyer and they were brothers. Homer worked in a law office and worked for City Title Insurance where he researched Hall of Records. It does not specifically say in documents whether Langley withheld a job or not. They lived in a mansion that was passed down to them after their parents passed away. According to the New York Press, “The Collyers’ telephone had been disconnected, along with their gas and electric. The brothers claimed they were being billed outrageous prices, so they decided to turn it all off” (Bryk, 1999). After this occurred, Homer suffered from a stroke and never went out in public again. By his brother being ill and cooped up in the house, this caused Langley to change. By 1942, he had collected vast quantities of newspapers, cartons, tin cans and other items. Over a period of time, these items consumed the house, making it impossible to walk through. After a while, Langley was so caught up in his possessions that he started to not take care of his brother, which autopsies state that his body was extremely emaciated and dehydrated. There was no food in his digestive tract, which indicated that he had had nothing to drink or eat for at least three days before his death, which was attributed to chronic bronchitis, gangrenous decubital ulcer (bedsore) and pulmonary emphysema. According to Times Magazine, after recovering Homer’s body from the cluttered house, the next day they removed 19 tons of debris from the first floor hallway alone. The problem was, Langley was nowhere to be found. Two months after Homer’s death, the searchers continued to remove waste from the house. In total they removed 103 tons of waste before discovering Langley’s body. He had been buried alive under the rubbish.


Christman 4 Another example that can be used to show the effects of compulsive hoarding on health came from a case report called The Association between Self-Control and Hoarding. The article defines what is self-control and the ability to regulate the component for the direction of personal behavior toward achieving a specific goal. “Hoarding is one syndrome where-in self control may play a substantial role” (Timpano, 2010). They’re study was conducted to see whether people who had compulsive hoarding could focus on working on their self-control, and if they did so, they could improve their symptoms of hoarding. They found that by doing this study that selfcontrol practice is associated with both increased motivation for treatment and overall levels of self-awareness. By doing this, they found out what the patients needed to work on and how this method could benefit their condition. A prime example that compulsive hoarding affects health majorly was a study done on the elderly that had this mental disorder. “Hoarding among elderly clients can have serious health and safety consequences, including death” (Turner, 2010). They discuss the alternative ways to deal with this mental sickness, including specialized cognitive treatments called cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT). Treatments consist of weekly home visits that include motivational interviewing, organizing and decision-making skills, cognitive therapy regarding hoarding and related beliefs, and practice sorting and discarding belongings that are unnecessary for survival. The challenges in doing this conductive study was the treatment of elderly people, which includes their health and safety risks, as well as reduced physical capacity that required problem-solving strategies. More Findings Concerning the Issue Is there any treatment for compulsive hoarding? According to Hartford Hospital, there is not. “There are some treatments that may help people to manage the symptoms more effectively,


Christman 5 such as medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy” (“Anxiety Disorders Center: Compulsive Hoarding”, 2010). Can you make the victim see that compulsive hoarding is a problem and that they need to get help? In a lot of cases, this is unlikely to happen. They think that the way they live is perfectly normal and that the clutter is not life-threatening. Never argue with the person or try to persuade them to see things the way you do, because this will not work either because they will not change unless they want to. Compulsive hoarding disorder at often times has been referred to as OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. This is not the case. According to Randy Frost, PhD at International OCD Foundation states, “Only 1 in 5 people with hoarding problems report and significant OCD symptoms like checking or cleaning rituals. In hoarding cases, though, owning things often produces pleasant feelings or safety and comfort, and acquiring can even produce euphoric feelings” (Frost, 2010). Depression also is a major factor of these events. More than half of people with hoarding problems are clinically depressed, but the depression does not cause the hoarding problem. It might be a result of the problem, but it is not the main factor as to why people do it. Aired on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show called The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital, explained compulsive hoarding and its causes. He stated, “People with this illness usually start hoarding during childhood or early adolescence, although the problem usually does not become severe until the person is an adult” (“What Is Compulsive Hoarding?”, 2004). Another prime example as to why these abnormal actions occur is that as the individual becomes older, referring into their elderly years, they tend to “collect” or hang onto a lot more than if they were younger and had the disorder. “Seniors over sixty years of age seem to have the most cluttering issues. Their


Christman 6 reasons for hoarding are varied, ranging from believing others will steal their possessions, saving items for their children, and having lost touch with reality.” (“All About Life Changes, 2010). They also feel this way due to the fact that they have lost something in their lives, being that a family member or something that they held near and dear to their hearts. This disorder afflicts up to forty percent of the seven to eight million Americans who suffer with this mental illness. Conclusion After reviewing everything that I have put into my research studies, I have concluded that compulsive hoarding has effects on the mind, as well as on your environmental factors in which a person surrounds themselves in on a daily basis. Compulsive hoarding does affect an individual’s health and their overall lifestyle. Even though the individual does not know what effects it can have on your life and environment, but it also has an effect on the ones around you. Sometimes they may feel obligated to not want to be around due to the living conditions. For a person with a normal mindset, they can’t be around someone who has a hoarding problem and is not willing to seek treatment. For the ones that do seek treatment, they can receive help, but there is no cure for compulsive hoarding disorder.


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