March 10, 2009

Clutter may drive children away from home

Often it is the children of compulsive hoarders -- a psychiatric condition -- who suffer most, a U.S. anxiety disorders expert says.

Dr. James Abelson of the University of Michigan says when parents suffer from being compulsive hoarders, their children may feel embarrassed, may not be able to have friends over and may be confused about what is and isn't normal behavior.

I have heard stories of hoarders whose children took to the streets in their teens because there was no more room in the home for them, Abelson says in a statement.

Even when sanitation and safety issues exist, Abelson says compulsive hoarders don't see the squalor they live in as a problem.

Whatever they see in terms of clutter doesn't seem to matter to them, he points out.

Abelson explains that what is being hoarded matters to the hoarder and its removal causes the hoarder distress.

However, if the compulsive hoarder becomes highly motivated, therapy can help.

We basically set up a program of practice so that they can become desensitized to reduce the amount of pain they experience when they let go of objects, Abelson says. If we make sufficient progress with that, we can help them ultimately clean out their homes, but it's a very challenging process.