Why Hoarding and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is so Hard to Heal

The Secret and Shameful World of Hoarding

With the advent of the Hoarders and Hoarders: Buried Alive shows on A & E and TLC, the previously secret and shameful world of hoarding has gone public. Hoarding is a particularly chronic and difficult to treat manifestation of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Conventional psychological approaches including Cognitive Behavioral  therapy have a dismal track record for long-term change.

Unhealed Emotional Wounds and Hoarding

The deep unhealed emotional wounds that underlie hoarding need to be excavated and healed before any cleanup or organizing is attempted. Hoarding is a serious addiction with all the compulsive factors of a gambler minus the casino. Anxiety, in the form of unhealed emotional wounding, drives all addictive behavior, including hoarding. Addictions are anesthesia for emotional pain. If the underlying wounds are not gently brought to the surface and healed prior to cleanup or organizing, the hoarder’s wounding will be triggered, sending them into panic, and they will vigorously resist their helpers.

As many episodes of the shows have featured, the underlying pain and concurrent anxiety appears to be commensurate with the level of resistance to the cleanup. Some people panic and become aggressive and angry, others are more passive-aggressive. The passive-aggressive ones appear to be the most likely to let the cleanup happen, get rid of everyone who has invaded their space, then fill it up again as fast as possible. When comfort and safety are carted away in a dump truck,vulnerability and loss of control take its place. The hoarder is left emotionally naked and that will fuel a return-to-chaos relapse as soon as possible.

Trauma, Fear and Grief Drive the Hoarding Addiction

Unresolved fear, grief, emptiness, loss, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, deprivation or other traumatic emotions drive the hoarding addiction. The key to healing hoarding is to first engage metaphor diagnosis to determine what the underlying wounding is. The originating wounding creates such anxiety and pain that hoarders go on autopilot to keep the pain at bay against all reason. Instead of finding the comfort, control, safety and peace they so desperately crave, they end up burying themselves and their families in chaos, disorder and pain.

Once the broken heart is met with kindness and empathy, the anxiety releases. Then the cleaners and organizer have a clearer field to work with instead of trying to force their way through the hoarder’s denial, fear and resistance. It’s also kinder and less painful for the hoarder to have some closure before their only protection is carted off to the dump.