A theory...

If you've read anything here, you know that my mother is a recovering hoarder. She has made such great steps and progress, and we've experienced so much forgiveness, healing and renewal in our relationship that I never dreamed could happen! But because of this, compulsive hoarding is obviously something that I spend a lot of time reading about, thinking about, praying for a treatment for.

And I've been putting bits and pieces together in my head from what the professionals--psychologists and psychiatrists, grad students, and social workers--have deduced from research and experience. It appears that there is abnormal brain activity in those studied with hoarding habits. It's also been noted that hoarding seems to fit an addiction model to some degree. Although it does not show the exact same characteristics as an addiction, there are many similar features, especially in the effect of hoarding on family, friends, and other loved ones.

So this is my theory...

Person X is born with a slight difference in the way their brain processes. They have an inability to sort things simply into groups which makes picking and choosing extremely difficult. Because of this, they fall into a lesser category--the pack-rat, or chronically disorganized person. Person X goes through life, hits some rough patches with losses but has the ability to grieve, adapt, and cope in healthy ways.

Now, Person Y is also born with the slight difference in brain processing. They have the same issues with sorting, classification, decision-making as Person X. But when Person Y experiences a great loss-death, divorce, chronic long term illness, depression, major upheaval in job or major move--they lack the ability to grieve, adapt and cope in a healthy manner. Much as the person who has the genetic possibility of becoming alcoholic, Person Y begins to acquire and keep more things. Their joy at finding a bargain or a treasure becomes their high. Coupled with a processing issue which has made them disorganized and messy to start with, you've created a disaster in the home.

The genetic component of alcoholism is interesting to me in this:

Not all children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves. While I know that there are many children of alcoholics who simply avoid alcohol, I also know that there are siblings from an alcoholic family who are not affected. What is different about this child?

My theory is the difference of that child to process grief in a healthy manner, adapt to change, and exercise healthy coping strategies.

The next question then is:

Can resiliency be taught? Can family members of hoarders be taught skills to help them adapt to change, grieve, and cope in a healthy manner thereby decreasing their risk of becoming a full-blown hoarder?

Just my thoughts...weigh in.


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