Doctor Oz did a segment called “Buried Alive” to discuss hoarders, the hazards of people who hoard too much stuff and to teach us how to throw stuff out. If your home is buried in piles of stuff or junk, it could be a sign that you are a hoarder. I think we all know someone who is a hoarder – send this article to them and get this book for them: Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding… it really will help them to get a brand new start on life! Dr Oz said that million of people’s lives are taken over by stuff: books, clothes and other random items. What are the early warning signs of a hoarder? And what can hoarders do to start throwing stuff out?
Joanne lost her husband, and her daughter said that after that their home became unrecognizable. Growing up, Joanne’s daughter said their house was always warm and inviting. Then Joanne’s husband died, her children got married, and everything snowballed so that Joanne ended up hoarding lots of stuff. Dr. Oz sent Ellen Martin, a professional organizing consultant, and Dr. David Dia, a cognitive behavioral therapist, to help Joanne get out from under her clutter. Dr. David Dia said the first step is for Joanne to go through her items and decide what should stay and what should go. As Dr. Dia went through the items with Joanne, she started “churning” which is where you give the illusion of doing stuff, but you are really just moving stuff from one place to another instead of actually throwing stuff out.
Joanne said at the beginning of the segment that she did not think she was a hoarder, but she just likes to collect things and that snowballed and got out of hand. Dr Oz pointed out that by keeping “things”, she is losing her ability to have her grandkids over and to be more social. Very interesting point Dr Oz!
Dr. David Dia’s Definition of Hoarding:
Hoarding is the compulsive need to acquire large volumes of items, in addition to struggling and great difficulty with getting rid of items. Throwing out items for hoarders causes very high levels of anxiety. The more a hoarder brings in, the more clutter they get since they cannot get rid of anything – therefore it is very dangerous environment, especially for children and kids. Hoarders also experience high levels of stress and embarrassment from their piles of stuff and often show avoidance behaviors.
Joanne said that when you lose somebody you love, like a husband or a child, a piece of you goes with them and you have an emptiness. She felt alone. So she bought stuff to make her happy. If she woke up in the middle of the night and could not sleep, she would go out shopping at any store that was open. I suppose this is a great source of money for places like HSN and online shopping.
Science Behind Hoarding: the Amygdala
Dr Oz explained what goes on in the brain of a hoarder. Inside everyone’s brain is a section called the Amygdala, the Reptilian part of our brain. The Amygdala fires signals saying that you should be careful and be nervous, and the prefrontal cortex is supposed to calm down these signals and say that everything will be ok. When Joanne lost her husband, the Amygdala started bombarding her brain with lots of signals, even when it came to throwing stuff out, and her prefrontal cortex stopping calming down these signals.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Hoarding
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the best treatment for hoarders according to Dr. David Dia. Therapy and dialogue helps to change the way you think about objects and can teach you to retrain your Amygdala, because the Amygdala learns through experiences. So you can teach the neurons in the pre-frontal cortex of your brain to fire at the same time as the Amygdala, so that the anxiety part of your brain is talking to the more rational part of your brain.
Joanne did an amazing job getting rid of stuff. Dr Oz showed how many boxes of stuff she got rid of so far and how many bags of garbage she threw out (it almost looked like she threw out more garbage than stuff she was able to give away). Ellen Martin said that hoarders have a high level of sensitivity to getting rid of things, so when you help them get organized, you have to gain their trust so that they don’t think you are just coming in to throw away all of their stuff.
Tips for Hoarders
Ellen Martin says to make throwing stuff out fun! For example, you can sort through boxes while you watch television (like when you watch Dr Oz)! Also, remember Dr Oz’s idea that you are trading having close relationships and being social with your ability to have lots of stuff… remind yourself of this and ask yourself if it is really worth it.
Dr. Oz did an air quality test on Joanne’s home and found extremely high levels of mold. In fact, the mold was a toxic level and if she goes back to that level of clutter, she will have to wear a mask on her face. One of the problems of clutter is that you cannot see mold and all of the dust that is collecting.
Hoarding is a serious problem – it is a physical risk to both your physical health and to your emotional health because it destroys your relationships. But you can overcome hoarding with some therapy, and the therapy is not a long term process – it is usually only 6-12 months (26 sessions) to undue your old behavior patterns. At the very least, hoarders, try out Dr. Oz’s De-Clutter Checklist.