If you are the child of hoarders, you may have to break the news about the nature of your parents' disorder to your boyfriend. Hoarding, like other mental disorders and addictions, is a symptom of an issue that your parents struggle with, not the defining characteristic of who they are or what they mean to you. How you tell your boyfriend about these hoarding tendencies can influence his perception of your parents, while also providing an educational opportunity on what the disorder is and what it is not.
1. Defining Hoarding
Hoarding disorder was recently added to the fifth edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5) under the "Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders" chapter. Hoarding disorder is defined by a difficulty and reluctance to get rid of personal possessions, regardless of their worth, value or function. A hoarder may hold an emotional attachment to items, may find intrinsic value in everything, or may have little rhyme or reason to his hoarding behavior. Hoarding differs from typical collecting behavior by the sheer amount of collected objects and usually is accompanied by severe distress along with social and occupational impairment. Hoarding may additionally prove dangerous to those who continue filling their homes.
2. Talking to Your Boyfriend
Discussing the intricacies of your parents' hoarding disorder will require time and careful planning. Set aside some time when you can be alone with your boyfriend, without distraction. Explain to him what hoarding is, and to what degree your parents' lives are impacted by the disorder. You may consider utilizing documentaries or articles about hoarding to illustrate what the disorder is and how both you and your parents have had to cope with their behavior.
3. Discussing the Impact of Your Parents' Hoarding
Hoarding is a problem that impacts everyone in the hoarder's life. This may have been especially true when you were a child and may dictate how frequently you see your parents, whether they are allowed to have their grandchildren over, and where most of your interactions take place. It is important to tell your boyfriend what it is like, as a relative of hoarders, when you try to intervene in their lives, such as by helping them clean or encouraging them to seek treatment.
4. Separating the Symptoms From the Parents
Mental illness can hold a stigma, particularly because the individual afflicted with the disorder may appear physically healthy, even though her actions suggest otherwise. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reminds children of parents with mental disorders that their parents are ill, and are not to blame for their actions. If your parents had asthma, they would not be held to different social standards due to having an asthma attack. It is important to maintain this mindset when talking to your boyfriend about your parents' disorder. To help separate your parents from their disorder, give your boyfriend the opportunity to interact with your parents away from their hoard before introducing him to the problem head-on.
- American Psychiatric Publishing: Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders
- The New York Times: Understanding Hoarding
- Mental Health America: When a Parent has a Mental Illness: Issues and Challenges
- Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation: Hoarding and the DSM 5
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Children of Parents With Mental Illness
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images