By On October 24th, 2013

Holding on and Hoarding

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Pema Chodron, a prolific author and Buddhist nun, has stated that “when we feel inadequate and unworthy, we hoard things.”  She goes on to describe that, even though we may be holding on as a way to seek comfort, this actually often ends up causing suffering.  Chodron has also written about holding on to things out of fear.  As in, one anticipates deprivation or rough times ahead or holds on tightly to possessions out of a fear they will lose what they have.  Of course, we hold on to things and develop an attachment to items for any number of reasons.  Holding on might add clutter to our life, but, for 5% of the world population, this holding on leads to hoarding behavior.

Some find television shows profiling extreme cases of hoarding fascinating.  Anyone has the potential to develop Hoarding Disorder.  Researchers have found common causes that may make some of us more vulnerable to the disorder than others.  People with hoarding behaviors tend to have trouble regulating their emotions and struggle with perfectionism.  They may also have difficulty focusing, categorizing, and with decision making.  With this aspect in particular, you can see how the “collecting” or keeping items gets out of control.  In order to clear inevitable clutter in our life, we must engage these functions of our brain:  focusing on a task, placing items into categories of keeping or getting rid of, and making these decisions during the process.  If someone struggles with these functions, the clutter slips further out of their grasp.  Brain scans have shown the areas of the brain responsible for these functions work differently in someone who hoards.  A strong emotional attachment to objects and a set of beliefs about not being wasteful are also contributors to hoarding behavior.

We have an opportunity to learn more about Hoarding Disorder next week here in Tulsa.  LIFE Senior Services is hosting Randy O. Frost, PhD.  We at Brookhaven Hospital are excited to be one of the sponsors of this important training.  Dr. Frost is the Harold and Elsa Israel Professor of Psychology at Smith College in Massachusetts, and has published many articles as well as a few books on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, hoarding, and perfectionism.  He will be here on October 29th to deliver two presentations, one to professionals and one that will be free and open to the public.  For more information about this event, “Buried in Treasure: Understanding Hoarding Disorder,” click here or call LIFE Senior Services at 918-664-9000, ext. 8443.


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