What Is Messy House Syndrome
Messy house syndrome, also called Diogenes syndrome, might be more commonly known as hoarding.
Those with messy house syndrome might be called messies or hoarders. They struggle to clean up or declutter their home due to underlying physical or mental health issues. Messy house syndrome presents in older adults, usually 60 and over.
People with messy house syndrome cannot maintain a healthy household. They hoard large amounts of useless objects within their homes. Often, their homes are so cluttered that they are inhabitable and unsafe.
Some mental health issues associated with this syndrome include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Substance abuse disorders
Messy house syndrome is a behavior that results from an underlying mental illness in older adults who live alone. They might be unable or willing to ask for help from others to keep their homes organized and clean.
Additional Sources Of Support
For your loved one. In addition to therapy, talking regularly to others facing the same challenges can help your loved one to feel less isolated and alone. Find online or in-person support groups for people with hoarding disorder using the resources listed below.
For yourself. While helping your loved one, its important not to let their hoarding take over your whole life. To keep your mood up and your stress levels down, dont neglect your own health needs and other relationships. Joining a support group for family members of hoarders can also help you find support, discover local resources, and learn new coping tips.
Box 4 Principles Of Assessment Of Hoarding And Squalor303340
Engagement: Build trust. Reframe your role in terms of meeting the person’s perceived needs.
Homevisit: Beforehand, obtain information to identify safety issues.
Environment/symptom severity: Assess the degree of hoarding/squalor and document it take photos if the person permits, or use validated tools such as the Environmental Cleanliness and Clutter Scale , Clutter Image Rating Scale , Hoarding Rating Scale .
Contributing conditions: Assess the factors underlying hoarding/squalor and possible comorbidities:
- A. Physical health problems.
- B. Cognitiveproblems: Executive function should be assessed. Mini Mental State Exam alone is insufficient and may be normal.
- C. Mentalhealthproblems: Assessment and usual treatment of comorbidities may need to be undertaken before or simultaneously, as they may interfere with addressing hoarding. For example, treatment for anxiety may assist with interventions to discard items.
Function: Screen for impact on daily activities. For example, does the person:
- sleep in their bed
- have a place to prepare food and a place to eat
- use their toilet, shower, appliances/utilities e.g. fridge, water
- move throughout the home safely
- if there was a fire or a need for an ambulance, are the hallways clear?
Potential for harm/safety risks: Assess the consequences of hoarding/squalor:
- risks to the person themselves
- risks to dependents
- risk of eviction/homelessness
- medication safety.
Collateral history should be obtained.
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Does A Messy Room Contribute To Depression
There seems to be a link between messy living spaces and depression. But does a bedroom overflowing with laundry exacerbate symptoms more acutely? The impact of messiness varies between people, according to Teresa.
Some people may feel quite comfortable with clutter or mess. For others, living in a mess may feel completely out of character and only occur when they are experiencing a depressive episode, she says.
However, if you find yourself saying, My house would be so clean if I werent so depressed, chances are that the messiness does affect your depressive symptoms.
Studies suggest that feeling surrounded by chaos can affect mental health. A 2016 study says that clutter harms overall well-being.
Research from 2020 found high levels of household disorganization in families led to poor cognitive, behavioral, and communication outcomes among adults and children. And a 2017 study found that an accumulation of clutter due to procrastination can lead to a large decrease in levels of life satisfaction.
UCLA researchers have also found a link between household clutter and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Excess cortisol is linked with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Is A Messy Room A Sign Of Teen Mental Health Problems
A messy room could signify teen mental health problems and can also be normal teenage behavior.
You might run into issues asking your kids to pick up after themselves. They might yell, its my room! They might have different preferences than you do and are trying to have some control over their space.
Your teenager might be rebelling against your expectations or testing your limits. Limit testing can be expected for teenagers. You might believe that they are a messy person, and they might feel like you are judging them.
You might need to respect their space and understand that you might have different expectations of cleanliness. Some people have personalities or high expectations of themselves. What is messy to you might just be disorganized to your teenager.
A little bit of messiness might be normal for your child. Creative kids might be more inclined to feel comfortable in a less organized space. Teens might feel a little more relaxed in their room when they dont need to keep everything perfect.
However, a messy room can be a sign of an underlying mental health problem.
Although most kids need reminders or help to keep their space clean, having a messy room can be a sign of mental health problems. Additionally, clutter and messiness can affect their mental health.
Overall, the difference between everyday messiness and an underlying issue can be determined by considering the following:
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The Depression/messy House Cycle
When I first started UfYH, it was a housekeeping blog very squarely aimed at lazy people. Mostly because I am one. As the blog gained momentum, though, I started hearing from people who were using the fundamentals to help them battle through something more serious than laziness: mental illness. More specifically, depression.
Now, Im no stranger to depression. I dont make it a secret that I have issues with depression and anxiety, just like I dont make it a secret that I have poor eyesight and a bum knee. Depression, however, has its own set of related life issues that my poor arthritic knee has never caused. And one of those is the self-perpetuating cycle of depression and a messy home.
When youre in the midst of a depressive episode, cleaning your house comes in on the List of Things You Want to Do somewhere after taunting a hive of bees and tap dancing on live television. Things are awful. Its a struggle to walk to the bathroom. Making dinner seems more impossible than advanced calculus. Anything thats not your couch or your bed might as well be hot lava. And so the mess builds around you. I purposely use the passive voice there because when youre depressed, it seems nearly impossible that youre contributing to the chaos of your house, because that would require energy, and you sure as hell dont have any of that to spare.
You can do five minutes. I promise.
Ask For A Helping Hand
If you live with a partner or family members, having them tidy with you for 10 minutes could be just what you need.
Sometimes, the prospect of a task can be more daunting than actually doing it, but having an ally to help manage your depression can make a real difference.
With extra pairs of hands getting to work, youll make progress even faster, and seeing the difference youre making can motivate you.
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Why Do Some People With Depression Have Messy Spaces
Depression can make it hard to concentrate, take care of yourself, and get things done.
Keeping up with tasks, such as tidying up or doing laundry, is difficult if youre experiencing symptoms of depression.
Living with depression can make it feel really, really challenging to do a lot of things, keeping a living space clean may be just one of those, says Gaby Teresa, associate marriage and family therapist at Kindman & Co. in Los Angeles.
Going about your daily routine, which comes naturally to some, tends to feel nearly impossible to someone experiencing depression, Teresa says.
So, tidying up seems like an insurmountable task when youre experiencing common signs of depression, such as:
- feeling overwhelmed
Someone Living With Depression Has Candidly Highlighted The Problems They Face Everyday By Sharing Two Poignant Photos Of Their Bedroom In
Someone living with depression has candidly highlighted the problems they face everyday by sharing two poignant photos of their bedroom.
In the first image posted on picture sharing site Imgur, the sufferer known only as @OP, shares a photo of their chaotic bedroom, with numerous bottles and pieces of paper strewn across the floor. It shows what charities have described as the debilitating effect of depression.
In the second photo @OP has cleaned the room to make it a peaceful environment.
Following the clean-up, @OP said: I know its not a big victory, but for me it means the world to just be able to have my door open if people come over. I feel so at peace right now.
Me 1 Depression 0, they added.
The photos have been viewed more than 310,000 and seem to have struck a chord with other people living with depression who have posted supportive comments online.
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How Can I Clean My Room When Im Depressed
You can clean up your room when youre depressed, which can improve your mood and symptoms.
While cleaning a messy room wont cure your depression, your personal space is one thing you have some control over. Depression often makes you feel like you have no control over anything in your life. Cleaning your room can be empowering and relieve some symptoms.
Use the following tips to clean up your room when depressed:
- Start small:
- Trying to clean an overly messy room all at once can be so overwhelming that you dont even start.
- Instead, pick one thing that you can do today, like making your bed, clearing your desktop, emptying a wastebasket, or bringing dirty dishes to the sink
How Your Environment Reflects Your State Of Being
If youve ever been depressed, youre likely all too familiar with depressions powerful ability to zap you of all energy and motivation. Merely the thought of showering feels like it would take a marathons worth of effort. So its not surprising that the home of a severely depressed person isnt typically in stellar shape. Mine was certainly no exception.
For years, my environment was a perfect reflection of my mental state: chaotic, uninspired, disorganized, and full of shameful secrets. Id dread the moment anyone asked to come over because I knew thatd mean one of two things: A seemingly insurmountable cleaning challenge, or canceling plans on someone I care about. The latter won out 99 percent of the time.
I grew up with the idea that depression was not a legitimate illness as much as it was a weakness. It could be remedied if Id only try harder. I was so ashamed that I couldnt pull myself out of it, Id do all I could to hide it. Id fake smiles, fake interests, fake laughter, and go on and on to friends and family about how happy and confident I felt. In reality, I was secretly feeling hopeless and at times, suicidal.
After years of this performance that likely wasnt convincing anyone of my stability, I heard a phrase in passing that Id later find was the catalyst to a major life change:
Cleanliness is a form of self-respect.
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Lack Of Motivation: A Common Symptom
Depression often manifests itself through a lack of motivation. Feeling this way means it can take significantly more energy and effort to accomplish small tasks like tidying your space, Teresa says.
But when it comes to depression, a lack of motivation doesnt relate only to messy living spaces. It can also lead to losing interest in activities once enjoyed, such as socializing with friends and participating in hobbies. Someone might even lose motivation to maintain personal hygiene. That is, you might wantto engage in certain actions but simply dont have the emotional or physical energy to do so.
There can be a lot of shame tied to mess, Teresa says. My clients who experience depression sometimes say they feel inadequate when they struggle with daily tasks that come so easily to others.
Hoarding And Diogenes Syndrome
Researchers have described Diogenes syndrome as âa special manifestation of hoarding disorder.â
The home of a person with Diogenes syndrome can become so unclean and unhygienic that others from a similar cultural background would consider it necessary to clean and clear the environment.
Hoarding can be a public health hazard as it attracts insects and rodents. The buildup of possessions and trash can also pose a fire hazard and make it difficult for the person to escape if a fire occurs.
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Capacity To Refuse Treatment
Many people with hoarding disorder or living in squalor lack insight into their condition and refuse treatment.28 If intervention is needed but declined, assessment of their capacity to refuse treatment is indicated. Given the high prevalence of executive impairment, it is not acceptable to withhold treatment out of a purported respect for the persons autonomy without conducting a capacity assessment.29 Attempts to engage affected individuals and promote capacity should be maximised. There are three main scenarios:
What Families Friends Neighbors And Service Providers Can Do To Help
Social support by family, members of the community, and service providers is very important in helping vulnerable adults remain safely in the community.
Family and friends:
- Learn what signs and symptoms to look for.
- Help the adult to reduce isolation as much as possible. Community services such as friendly visiting, regular telephone calls, and volunteer driving may help reduce the isolation of a vulnerable adult.
- Stay in contact.
- Talk to the person. Sometime just allowing someone to express themselves opens the door to finding solutions. Help the person review options and make his or her own choices.
- Help the person accept help from others.
- Help the person get any services he or she may need.
- Get help from Adult Protective Services if you are concerned an adult may be self-neglecting.
- If a vulnerable adult chooses to be neglectful, you must respect his or her choice in any attempt to help.
- Stay alert to any changes that might indicate a problem with an aging neighbor. Are newspapers piling up on the porch? Are treasured animals loosing weight or uncared for? Is there a significant, negative change in the persons routine?
Mail carriers, utility workers, other service providers
Police and other first responders
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The Psychology Of Hoarding
Different theories within the field of psychology have developed their own understanding of hoarding.
Psychological Ownership Theory
Within psychological ownership theory, an individual who hoards wants to have control, express themselves and have a space that is theirs. These individuals are hyper-sentimental, meaning they have a strong emotional attachment to their possessions. They view their things as part of who they are and what they need to be safe.
Those who follow attachment theory believe that individuals who hoard typically had relationship issues with their early primary caregivers, leading to anxious or avoidant attachment styles. These individuals go on to avoid relationships and instead seek out objects for comfort and security. They have a harder time dealing with their emotions and stress and use hoarding behaviors as a way to cope with their emotions.
Within the constructivist approach, individuals who hoard assign values to their items. They believe that all of their possessions serve an important purpose, such as preserving history or the memory of a loved one, providing protection and security, relieving anxiety or avoiding loneliness.
How To Talk To Someone About Their Hoarding
Despite their disordered and sometimes unsanitary living conditions, some people with hoarding disorder may not identify their behavior as problematic. Therefore, it can take multiple attempts to begin a conversation about changing their habits.
Whether youre broaching the subject for the first time or have tried and failed to engage your loved one in a conversation about their hoarding before, how you approach the problem can make a big difference. Pushing your loved one to make major changes at once, trying to take charge, or cleaning away their possessions behind their back will only alienate the person, destroy their trust, and add to the family conflict.
Rather, its important to show that you empathize with the hoarders struggle and want to support and assist them as they work to change their behaviors.
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