Why Didn’t They Ask For Help

There was a story that was on local news about a family in Madison that had 84 dogs, of which only 39 survived. Apparently, many of the dogs in the home were dead. The case is being treated as an animal cruelty case, and the reported said that people were wondering why the family had never asked for help before this spun out of control.

Maybe they couldn’t get help.

These people were probably hoarders. And whether you’re hoarding inanimate objects or animals, you just don’t talk about hoarding. Why? Because when you talk about it, you get snide comments from family or friends. When you try to talk about how you need help, people will make promises or will just outright ignore you. No one wants to help hoarders because, like with obesity and other addictions, there is a belief that you have done this to yourself.

Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding Disorder is one of the cruelest diseases that a person can suffer from because it causes alienation from one’s friends and family, then causes alienation from society in general when the hoarding is finally exposed. There are all of these shows on television now that show hoarding conditions, which should lead to better understanding for the hoarders. It doesn’t. The shows, instead, cause people to look upon the hoarders as some kind of villain or disgusting, vile creature that is clearly undeserving of basic forms of human compassion.

In the nicest examples of condemnation towards hoarders, people will call hoarders lazy or pathetic. They will say that they lack willpower or that they lack discipline. Apparently, the best way to help hoarders get over their hoarding is to tell them just how inhuman they are acting. I’ve seen family members and friends call hoarders all sorts of names, and it makes me cringe. I wonder how many of these people would like to have someone look at their worst health-related issues and ridicule them over that. That wouldn’t be fair, you might think. Well, it isn’t fair to do that towards hoarders either.

Less than one percent of the population is believed to hoard, with many of those having some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Other disorders where populations have a hoarding issue include Anorexia Nervosa, Dementia, Depression, PTSD, and various psychotic disorders. People prone to hoarding tend to have the following personality traits: indecisiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, and avoidance. Basically, if you’ve ever been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you probably have the personality traits that are found within the hoarding population. Medications typically given for OCD are less effective in people who hoard. Reasons for hoarding are typically biological in nature. Biological means that it isn’t their lack of discipline and willpower that causes them to be this way. It means that there is a basic biological dysfunction going on in a person. So, condemning them for hoarding is basically the same thing as condemning a person with diabetes for having high blood sugar.

People who hoard realize at some point that they can’t have other people in their homes, so they isolate themselves. This isolation ends up making the hoarding worse. Friends and family members quit associating themselves with the hoarder, and will make their acceptance of another conditional upon the person cleaning up their home. Basically, they tell the individual that they cannot love him or her unless he or she becomes a different person. How exactly is that supposed to help a person?

The common beliefs of someone with hoarding issues is that the usefulness or value of a person may lay in the most unexpected things and that the moment an item is discarded that the person loses a piece of their inner being.  Deciding what is important to a hoarder is more difficult than it would be for someone who doesn’t hoard. Organizing is horribly difficult for the person involved. People with OCHD actually feel overly responsible for what is going on around them. This hypersensitivity makes it harder for a person to get rid of things because there is a deep sense of keeping something around just in case. People with hoarding issues have trouble letting go/moving on. So, because of all of these issues contributing to their behaviors, we as a society condemn them because they don’t fit our societal norm.

How despicable does that make society?

I’m sure that we can all agree that hoarding animals is probably a bad thing, but when you look at it from the perspective that the person involved probably just doesn’t know how not to do it, then maybe we shouldn’t be treating hoarders as these vile, repulsive things anymore. Maybe we should extend some level of love and respect to them. Maybe instead of mocking them on the news or in social media, we should sit down with them and try to help them.

Hating and mocking someone for something that they can’t control doesn’t do anyone any good.

About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.