Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.

You can read the start of my journey here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

OCD. What's it all mean?

It seems I've always, always struggled with paperwork. Over the years, I have found that doing nothing often alleviates the distress of not knowing what to do, so I do nothing. As a result, I've ended up with a study full of boxes of paperwork that I will eventually need to sort.

I can't get all the boxes in the frame of the camera. There's another stack to the right, and there's another layer under the bottom layer of boxes showing in the picture. The 2 stacks in the right of the picture are 3 boxes deep. The other stacks are 2 boxes deep. And they pretty much all go to the ceiling and take up half the study. I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I shall prevail!

Hubster said he often feels frozen in a pattern of checking to see, if he locked the door, has his wallet in his pocket, has his keys in hand, and has everything else he may need before he can pull away from the house. He checks multiple times before he puts his vehicle in gear.

Hopper can't handle the stress of being without her strings long enough for them to go in the wash, so I have to wash them when she's away from the house, or she's totally out of sorts. Her palms get clammy, she gets red in the face, she has a minor meltdown, and nothing helps except getting the strings back in her hands.

Scooter can't sit still, if she sees anything tipped over on it's side. She can't keep herself from stopping whatever she's doing to upright whatever it is that has fallen. She also can't get out of bed without having all of her bracelets and necklaces on for the day, even when it means we have to remove them for her shower. 

While only Hopper has officially been diagnosed with having OCD, Hubster and I realize that all 4 of us have tendencies toward it. 

Back when we tried the pharmaceutical route for Hopper, we spoke with the psychiatrist she was seeing about it. I asked him about her strings. Over the years, she's had several grocery bags of shoestrings that she's used as a way to comfort herself, and if one is lost, or if they're in the wash, we see a totally undone little girl. She can't function. She can think of absolutely nothing else but the strings, and she's a total stressed out mess emotionally until she can pull them through her fingers once again. 

The psychiatrist said that what she's experiencing is classic OCD. That she has an obsession with the strings, and that she has a compulsion to drag them through her fingers. She cannot stop thinking of the strings and the comfort it brings her to pull them through her fingers, and is compelled to get them as quickly as possible. The longer she's away from them the more stressed out she becomes. The stress continues to escalate until she gets hold of the strings and can draw strength and relief from them. It is instantaneous.

Her doctor explained that she has an almost physical need to hold the strings. It sounded much like someone being addicted to alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. The sooner the object of the addiction is used by the person addicted, the sooner their relief from the symptoms of withdrawal. 

I came across this interesting article on OCD and hoarding on Everyday Health. A series of hoarding experts tackle all sorts of questions about how OCD and hoarding are connected. I can really identify with a lot of what is discussed. So much of it is familiar to me, both from personal experience and observation of our girls and my husband. 

The most important thing is that my husband and I have acknowledged that we struggle with these tendencies, and as a result, we're becoming better able to stop the madness and change our ways. I've also noticed that the greater the stress I'm under the more difficult it is to fight the urge to hang tight to every single piece of paper that comes into the house. With the stress of the last several weeks, I haven't had the clarity of mind to do much beyond surviving.

I'm looking forward to the stress subsiding a bit, so I can get back to dehoarding the house. 

It's almost becoming an obsession....


  1. You're doing great! As soon as everything returns back to normal, you'll jump right on it! :)

  2. We all have quirks like that!
    I think you're doing afabulous job on dehoarding and dealing with life in general!

  3. You are doing great and very brave to talk about this. I wish I were able to help you with the sorting. I'm a little compulsive in the sorter/organizer department, unfortunately that doesn't necessarily make for a clean house, just a sorted one.

  4. I love your writing, Judy - especially the funny little twists at the end of your posts. I hope Hopper's leg is healing well!

  5. You really are incredible, you know that, right? To be able to talk about this, to show the pictures... and what it does is have me rooting for you. (Which I always was anyway) but wow.

  6. Portia, I really am hoping normal is only a couple of weeks away! :)

    Abigail, thanks. :) I think we probably all do have little quirks like this. It's what make us unique. I just don't like it when my quirks interfere with my life. ;O)

    Jojesek, I'm a bit of a compulsive sorter, too. It's just that I have a tendency to over sort. Hair accessories are a good example. Instead of just being able to put all the rubber bands together, I find I need to sort according to color, size and texture. It takes so much longer than, if I could just relax and put them all together.

    LRS, Thanks for stopping by my blog. :) Glad you enjoy my writing. And thankfully, Hopper's leg is healing nicely. We're hoping she's released to normal activities in 2 weeks when she goes in again.

    Ami, Thanks for having my back. :)

  7. My son's OCD is subtle but there if you pay attention. If he rubs up against something on one side of his body he has to go back and rub up against that same sensation on the other side of his body. If I tap him on the arm I have to tap him on the other arm the same way on the same area. It's a bit odd but he insists or it's like things are out of whack.

  8. You are so motivated...I need to feel that too.....

  9. Wow... just from reading this one entry, I see a strong family who are all working hard to overcome the difficulties life has thrown at them. I totally get what you mean about not having the clarity of mind to do much beyond surviving - I'm kind of at that point at the moment. It's people like yourself that inspire me to "keep on keepin' on" as they say.

    Keep up the incredible work, Judy - I know you'll be back to de-hoarding your house soon enough! :-)


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