An Article On Hoarding in ‘The New Yorker’


Hi folks –

in my book the New Yorker is the finest magazine on Earth.

They published an article on hoarding; the seemingly endless collecting of things that the patient won’t, or is unable to, do away with. ‘Things’ is a broad concept here. It can comprise objects its owner holds dear, the way any collector loves his stuff: books, paintings, furniture, watches, cameras, ah well, why not include butterflies, pressure cookers, or coffee beans?

In hoarding, however, it’s gone out of hand, in two senses: the objects clutter precious living space, they’ve become obstacles, they can lead to accidents, to social isolation, up to making any kind of normal life impossible.

The second sense: hoarding often isn’t limited to meaningful objects alone, or even is all about being unable to discard things that others would have gotten rid of long ago in no time. The typical hoarder is vexed by doubt: can I throw this or that away, or is it of any value still? What should I do?

The rather problematic outcome is that the hoarder ends up with keeping everything. To end the doubt, and to end the worries about possibly getting rid of worthwhile stuff.

And the picture isn’t complete yet. Many hoarders are sentenced to live in ever more squalid surroudings; food residues, with vermin in and around them, are not an exception. Because getting evicted from their living quarters frequently is the result of their mental inability, they may end up homeless.

It’s nothing to laugh about, and in my opinion, sensational real-life TV garbage (how fitting a term!) about the disorder (that is what it is) are completely inappropriate, untoward. One should never derive feelings of pleasure from, or let oneself be entertained by the misfortune of others.

That stinks, folks.

Until a couple of years ago, hoarding firmly belonged to the core dimensions of OCD: contamination/washing, checking, order and symmetry, and religious/sexual preoccupations (with intrusive, unstoppable trains of thought).

But nowadays it’s seen as a disorder of its own, related to OCD (included in its spectrum). This on the grounds of several distinctive characteristics, e.g. the way hoarders respond to therapy and medication, possibly also genetic differences.

I myself had rather seen it stay within the ‘traditional’ group of ‘authentic OCD forms’, so to speak. There are phenomenogical reasons (obsessional and compulsive traits, avoidance behaviour); and also evolutionary correspondences that exist between hoarding and the other OCD dimensions. This is more than sufficient to keep it in its original class, I think that there are other and very convincing criteria apart from the way hoarders respond to treatment.

OK, enough for now, and here is the link to the New Yorker article. I would appreciate it very much if you, readers, would post your opinions about it, and also, should you feel like it, give a comment on my personal opinion about the place of hoarding in the scheme of things.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/15/let-go

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