Hoarding - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Monday, May 23, 2005

Hoarding

Is there a home in your neighborhood that looks more like a junkyard? Stuff filling nearly every inch of the yard? The inside of the home no better? At first you may assume the homeowner is a slob, but doctors say the explanation may be more complex. It can be a signal of a serious and often dangerous medical disorder. Neighbors complained long and hard about the trash, filth and junk cluttering this home in Boca Raton.

"It's just been hellatious for them to have to live through this trash accumulating, the rats the rodents, the health hazard."

The city ordered the owner to clean it up. When he refused to part with this stuff the city hired a crew at the owners expense. Workers brought in dump-trucks, shovels and protective masks.

"This, by far is the most challenging job we've ever worked on."

In West Palm Beach, another pack-rat. Code enforcers recently took these pictures before hauling piles of stuff out of this yard. Broken down cars, lawnmowers, bicycles, and more. The homeowner, Thomas MacDonald, will continue to collect.

When they come out here, and clean out all of your stuff, and it's all gone, what do you feel?

"I feel naked."

But never for long. West Palm has cleaned this yard three times in two years and it's filling up again. So is that yard in Boca Raton. Both property owners are hoarding: collecting excessively. Kyle Hamlin admits that for him it's a compulsion he can't stop.

"Whatever I come across, I can't just have one of it."

To the person who collects compulsively, everything has a meaning--even if that meaning to most of us isn't immediately apparent. Like this broken chair.

"I can't get rid of it."

Compulsive hoarding is considered by many doctors to be a type of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A disorder that, over time, can take over, and destroy a person's life.

"They can do no other part of their life, they're incapacitated. That's the real danger."

Another danger? Fire, fueled by towering, impassable clutter. They actually pose entrapment hazards, and there have been instances where firefighters have been killed because of those items landing on top of them. Despite the dangers. compulsive hoarders rarely beat their obsession. Of all the illnesses in psychiatry, this is one of the more difficult to treat. Treatment can include counseling, medication, a desire to stop.

Kyle Hamblin isn't there yet. He says without "all" of this stuff.

"I would be lost. It's hard to find the actual items that you can really part with or want to part with."

So, for now he'll keep it, add to it because he says, he just can't stop it.

If you think you have a problem with hoarding, or, if someone you know does, contact a mental health professional who specializes in obsessive compulsive disorders. For more information, including a list of common characteristics of compulsive hoarders, log onto http://www.bio-behavioral.com/hoarding.asp

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