“All the horizontal surfaces are covered,” says Dr. Randy O. Frost, Ph.D., the Harold Edward and Elsa Siipola Israel Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Smith College.
He is describing a textbook case of hoarding disorder and a patient with whom he has worked: “A random amalgam of things — newspapers, ribbons, egg cartons, and wrapping paper — covers the kitchen table, save for a tiny corner for the patient and her two children to eat their meals. They can’t sit down at the same time to eat. So, the clutter has affected how the family functions.
Teapots sit on the stove right beside a pile of papers. A heat source next to a fuel source suggests this is a serious problem.”The dining room area is just as cluttered with books, board game pieces, and dishes stacked so high on the dining room table that they practically reach the ceiling chandelier, he says.“Buried amid the clutter are blue storage bin tops, which suggests that she recognizes the problem piling up around her,” Frost says. “If there were a house fire, she would have difficulty getting out of her home.
She would have to go back through the kitchen and a sea of things in the garage with a small pathway running it.”Her den houses a different type of clutter: paperwork. Only a small corner of her couch is without mess, leaving her a tiny spot to sit for hours every day while she tries to work through her stuff without much progress.“Typically, she would pick up something off the pile, look at it, review why she got it, and then find herself unable to decide what to do about it,” Frost says. “So, she would return the item to the pile, somewhere else in sight, so that she could see where it was.
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