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Compulsive hoarding syndrome (Hoarding disorder) & Diogenes Syndrome

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,”

In my day-to-day work as a life coach and organizational coach, I never cease to be amazed at how complex human beings are. It fascinates me to see in the people I coach, all the potential we have, the capacity to be unique, the creativity, the invention, and the ease with which we can complicate easy things. I love to see the different ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting that we human beings have and that are influenced by our cultures, beliefs, visions, and above all life experiences.

This diversity shows us two sides of a coin, which we could say are positive and negative, but I prefer to say they are two different extremes. In the case of organization, these extremes are characterized by excessive order and the other by the total disorder. Among the more peculiar disorders is compulsive hoarding syndrome, compulsive hoarder syndrome, hoarding disorder, or disposophobia. People with this syndrome develop an “obsessive-compulsive” need to accumulate objects, unable to get rid of the slightest thing, even if it is apparently worthless, dangerous, or unhealthy. For example, I have seen people keep sanitary masks, blue mushroom packets, and paper bread bags.

The accumulated objects can be so many and so varied that, in addition to being a latent danger, they can impede free movement in the home, interfering with basic daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, resting, sleeping, and using sanitary facilities. Disposophobia causes such an attachment to accumulated things, regardless of their value, that people affected by this syndrome become upset if others touch their things, suffering intense episodes of anxiety at the mere thought of having to throw them away or part with them.

The causes of compulsive hoarding disorder are unclear. Genetics, brain function, and stressful life events are being studied as possible causes. But in most cases, the factors that favor the appearance of this syndrome are :

  • Personality: Many people with compulsive hoarding disorder have an indecisive temperament, among other traits.
  • Family history: There is a close relationship between having a family member with compulsive hoarding disorder and having this disorder.
  • Stressful life events: Some people develop hoarding disorder after a stressful event that is difficult to cope with, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, an eviction, or losing possessions in a fire.

Hoarding disorder can cause several complications, including:

  • Increased risk of falls
  • Injury or risk of being caught in the middle of items that tip over or fall.
  • Family conflict
  • Loneliness and social isolation
  • Unsanitary conditions that put health at risk
  • Risk of fire
  • Poor job performance
  • Legal problems, such as eviction

Hoarding Syndrome vs. Diogenes Syndrome

There are two major differences between hoarding syndrome and Diogenes syndrome:  People with Diogenes usually accumulate rubbish and junk without any criteria. This means that their house is always dirty. The accumulators are not always dirty.  People with Diogenes, due to the above, present a personal deterioration. In hoarding disorder, this deterioration is not always present.  Therefore, we could say that the main difference is that in Diogenes, rubbish is accumulated and there is personal deterioration, and in hoarding disorder what is accumulated does not have to be rubbish and there does not have to be personal deterioration.

Extreme neglect of personal hygiene and the accumulation of useless objects and rubbish are the two characteristic symptoms of Diogenes syndrome. In 1960, the first scientific study of this behavior pattern was carried out, and in 1975 it was christened the “Diogenes syndrome”. This name refers to Diogenes of Sinope, a Greek philosopher who adopted and promulgated to the extreme the independence of material needs and the ideals of deprivation (known as classical cynicism); this name is used because Diogenes only carried with him what was strictly necessary and, therefore, coincides with the consciousness of people suffering from this syndrome since they believe that everything they store or keep is or will be necessary at some point.

My experience and my accompaniment of people with Diogenes and Accumulation Syndrome

During the last few years, I have had the opportunity to accompany several persons with this symptom and to help them find a balance that allows them to feel well again. My support in this type of situation is done in a progressive way, to allow the person to come out of their state of suffering. Empathy, listening, dialogue, and patience are an important part of the process. The first step in accompanying a person with this syndrome is to give priority to their own safety (physically and mentally). Personalized coaching is key in the stage of a detachment of the person. Little by little, the person recovers the ability to let go of the obsessive link they have created with objects and will be able to recover a healthier lifestyle, free of unnecessary objects.

If you think that someone close to you suffers from this syndrome, I invite you to contact me, and together we will decide the best way to help this person.

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Compulsive hoarding syndrome (Hoarding disorder) & Diogenes Syndrome

Among the more peculiar disorders is compulsive hoarding syndrome, compulsive hoarder syndrome, hoarding disorder, or disposophobia. People with this syndrome develop an “obsessive-compulsive” need to accumulate objects, unable to get rid of the slightest thing, even if it is apparently worthless, dangerous, or unhealthy.

Read More »

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