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Hoarding: A Classified Mental Health Disorder, Do You Need Help?

Hoarding: A Classified Mental Health Disorder, Do You Need Help?

I once knew someone very close to me who suffered from what we now know as the Hoarding Disorder. Had we known at the time that what he suffered from was well beyond his control, we might have been able to give him the help he needed. Sadly, we just thought he was being stubborn and eccentric.

Knowledge of hoarding was very minimal at one point, and was not considered a disorder of its own until the New DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition) came out.

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If someone you care about is showing signs of hoarding, let them know you understand. Embarrassment can play a key role in Hoarding Disorder, and feeling the need to hide from their family or loved ones will further increase symptoms.

Hoarding Warning Signs

From my experience, hoarding doesn’t happen over night. Subtle signs will start showing, and it’s these signs that need attention before the situation becomes larger and more impossible to control.

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  •  An unnatural attachment to items
  • Great discomfort in letting others handle or touch the items
  • Uncontrollable and helpless against collecting more and more items
  • Extreme uneasiness, reluctance and refusal to discard anything
  • Unorganized, incapable of knowing where to put their possessions
  • Embarrassment over their living situation
  • Secluding themselves from friends and family
  • Depression and feelings of helplessness
  • Eventually takes over their lives

Hoarding, Causes, and Consequences

Hoarding is a mental illness, and was categorized within the OCD spectrum. However, with the new DSM-V, hoarding has been classified in a spectrum of its own, and acknowledged as a disorder that requires treatment. Often, a childhood traumatic event is the stressor that contributes to hoarding. This, in a way, is therapeutic, as their possessions provide a feeling of safety. However, it simultaneously increases conflicted feelings. The disorder itself causes anxiety and depression.

Other Disorders

Hoarding is very closely associated with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. Psychologists say the behavior is a coping mechanism.

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Quality of Life

As you can imagine, this disorder can control one’s life, in the same manner as addiction. Their fix may provide momentary relief, yet creates a much greater problem in the long run. In time, the items they have accumulated become far larger themselves. The piles become higher, the pathways from one room to another become more narrow, and eventually, the clutter is in a way, swallowing them alive. The kitchen and bathrooms can become unstable due to the hoarding. Items collected can range from several old toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, used ziplock bags, old store coupons, newspapers and endless recycling to broken furniture, and everything in between. The individual is unable to organize their possessions. Piles will accumulate, and health becomes extremely compromised within the living conditions.

Chinese modern artist Song Dong came up with an amazing solution for his mother’s lifetime collection of possessions. He displayed all his childhood homes’ items that his mother had collected from shoes to cans and from broken kitchen utensils to a surplus of clothing hangers. This art installation is called ‘Waste Not’ and was displayed at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His mother Zhao Xiangyuan (1938–2009) was pleased to see her collection displayed with pride. Her hoarding was triggered by the death of her husband.

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Criteria for Diagnosis

  • Extreme difficulty discarding items
  • Severe anxiety in the idea of discarding items
  • Discarding of items contributes to feelings of major loss and mourning
  • Extreme anxiety with the thought of something accidentally landing in the trash
  • Regularly going through the trash to check
  • Severely interferes with regular life functions such as work, relationships, health
  • Very possessive of their possessions
  • The hoarding is not a result of another mental illness

There Is Help

With a new social understanding of the Hoarding Disorder, there are specialists that can help. They have seen it all, and understand the disorder, they can help those suffering under the weight of their possessions. There are organizations that can help remove the items for donation to others that would get good use from them. As well, there are organizations that can get the individual’s home back to a place where they can live, and not just exist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be successful in maintaining a clutter free mental state. And one very important factor to remember is that no one with this disorder is alone!

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Kathleen Lum

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person

How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person

There are several perspectives on the term systems thinking. The discipline goes beyond a collection of tools and techniques. A lot of individuals are fascinated by tools like brainstorming tools, structural thinking tools, dynamic thinking tools, as well as computer-based tools. They believe the system thinking tools can make them smarter and productive. However, it goes beyond that as systems thinking is more strategic and sensitive to the environment we find ourselves.

So what is systems thinking and why is it good for you?

What Is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a diagnostic tool that can help you to assess problems before taking action. It helps you to ask questions before arriving at conclusions. It prevents you from making an assumption, which is the lowest level of knowledge.

A systems thinker is curious, compassionate, and courageous. The systems thinking approach incorporates the act of seeing the big picture instead of seeing in parts. It recognizes that we are connected, and there are diverse ways to solve a problem.

Characteristics of Systems Thinking

Systems thinking can help you in analyzing the connections between subsystems and understanding their potentials to make smarter decisions.

In a soccer team, the elements are the coach, players, the field, and a ball. The interrelationships are strategies, communications among players, and game rules. The goal is to win, have fun and exercise. We all belong to several systems and subsystems.

Some characteristics of systems thinking include:

  • Issue is important
  • The issue is familiar with well-known patterns
  • Attempts have been made to resolve the issue.

Given these characteristics, systems thinking goes beyond an operational tool; it is a strategic approach and a philosophy.

How to Use Systems Thinking

Here’re 3 ways you can use systems thinking:

1. Understand How the System Works and Use Feedback Points

The first task is to know what system is all about and identify the leverage points or feedbacks that influence its functioning. This is what will help in adjusting the system.

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If you want the system to be productive, enhance the feedback points. If you want it to be less productive, exhaust the same points.

A good example is that of a bathtub. The leverage points are the faucet and the drain. If you forget to close the drain, having turned on the water, the water will never stop flowing, and the tub will never overflow.

If you want more water, close the drain while you turn the water. If otherwise, turn the faucet off and open the drain. You can apply this to your personal development.

Once you discover the feedback points in your life, find your leverage or feedback points, then enhance those points. If you want to be fit, get a trainer, find a mentor, or eat healthy foods.

2. Discover the Patterns, Structure, and Events

Trends and patterns could be compared to clues for a crossword puzzle. As you aspire to enhance the system, trends and patterns offer you hints and cause to shift your paradigm. Usually, they can direct you to unusual and unexpected aspects, to ideas, people, or places you have never thought about.

Smart people watch out for trends and patterns so they can be conversant with changes.

You can view the world from 3 different perspectives:

i. The Event Perspective

If you consider the world from an event perspective, the best you can do is to be smarter is ‘react’. You tend to be smarter by reacting quickly, becoming more lighter on your feet, and flexible as you advance through life.

So how do you view the world from an event perspective? You ask a question like, ‘What happened?’.

There is the possibility of becoming more aware and seeing more at this level. An excellent technique to achieve this is by telling a story to a group. If you can see beyond each event, see beyond patterns and trends, you will be empowered to anticipate, predict, and plan.

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ii. Pattern Perspective

To view the world from a pattern perspective, you need to ask, ‘What has been happening?’

It is most times difficult to see the actual size of an iceberg (underlying structures that are the causes of events). The waterline dissects what’s visible from what’s not visible.

A systems thinker does not assume from what’s visible only; he or she seeks to know what has been happening.

Take a look at this video to understand more about the Iceberg Theory:

 

iii. The Structure Perspective

To view the world from a structure perspective, you need to ask, ‘what is causing issues?’ The answers will be the factors and forces responsible.

If you find yourself in a traffic jam, you don’t blame the next driver as a smart person; you could ask, ‘what’s been causing the traffic jam?

The usual answers could be a decaying road surface, careless driver, or high speed, but that would be the same things identified as trends. What makes the structure perspective different from others.

The structure is what propels your energy. It is what affects happenings. A systems thinkers make deductions based on internal structures to arrive at a conclusion

3. People Problems vs System Problems

Several issues ranging from security breaches, product flaws, poverty, to transportation inefficiencies are systemic.

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Even when you misbehave, there is usually an internal system to blame.

If you are not productive in your business, it may not be caused by you. There may be a system that you need to enhance.

Do you remember our feedback points? As soon as you assess the system, you can focus on people. Is a new hire causing lag in the packaging process? Is poor communication affecting the team’s performance? Reallocating job roles may be a perfect leverage point.

In the traffic jam example, there could be a system-based solution such as installing traffic lights and subsequently enforcing traffic laws in the area to penalize reckless drivers.

How to Foster Learning with Systems Thinking

Systems thinking helps you to appreciate the interrelationships of people, organizations, policies, decisions, ideas, and relationships.

Peter M Senge propounded five disciplines that foster learning in your DNA- whether you are leading an organization, starting a venture, or working as a freelancer.[1]

1. Gain Mastery

You can take online courses, attend conferences, read blog articles and books, listen to podcasts, converse with leaders within and beyond your industry, watch documentaries, learn from your team, and stretch yourself by improving your skills.

2. Discover Your Assumptions and Biases

There was this parable of four blind men who made different assumptions about an elephant. Their assumptions and biases hinder them from understanding how the animal looks like.

Biases can rob you of innovation and prevent you from experiencing personal growth. To become aware of your biases, you have to take an internal trip and engage breakthrough thinking.

3. Establish Your Vision

Systems grind to a halt when the goal or mission is not defined. You will not have the motivation to complete the online course if you don’t know why you subscribe in the first place.

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Is it for career advancement? To up your game or to gain general knowledge? Vision inspires you.

4. Learn in Groups

There is power in shared learning. There is a solidification of understanding when you learn in a group. You can have the lessons etched in your long term memory.

For instance, you can join learning groups where information is shared weekly.

5. Think in Systems

Systems thinking is about lifelong learning and improvement. It has also been linked to the Iceberg principle, which affirms that visible events are insignificant compared to what’s visible. There’s more ice below the waterline than what you can see with your physical eyes.

Anytime you are battling with a challenge, think in systems. Understand the details of the issue. Discover your leverage points. Assess, adapt, and keep improving your models.

After all. If you meet a lion in the wild, you need to understand what you are facing.

Final Thoughts

You can foster systems thinking by modeling your own environment. Participate in training, watch TED Talks, and create time to connect with others.

Also, practice critical thinking instead of making assumptions before you make a decision. The more you think systems, the more you will become smarter and productive in every aspect of your life.

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Featured photo credit: Olav Ahrens Røtne via unsplash.com

Reference

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