Aug 16

Children of Hoarders Tell Their Stories


I. Coming Clean: A Memoir, by Kimberly Rae Miller

Every night before I went to sleep…[I asked] for the things I wanted most in life: new dolls, a best friend, and for my house to burn down. Kimberly Rae Miller

When Miller’s childhood house actually did burn down, she would find out that her father’s hoarding didn’t vanish along with it. The book’s publisher: “In this moving coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her rat-infested home, her childhood consumed by concealing her father’s shameful secret from friends, and the emotional burden that ultimately led to an attempt to take her own life. And in beautiful prose, Miller sheds light on her complicated yet loving relationship with her parents that has thrived in spite of the odds.”

The adult writer/actress Miller, author of the new book Coming Clean: A Memoir, eventually realized she needed therapy to deal with the traumatic effects of her childhood. Her realization came after she destroyed her box springs in a frantic attempt to root out the (nonexistent) bedbugs causing her itchy discomfort.

The Publishers Weekly review:

As a child Miller realized her family wasn’t like other people’s families with tidy, presentable homes; far from it. A fire destroyed one home when she was in second grade, while the large house they moved into was soon rendered similarly uninhabitable, so that Miller never invited anyone home and had to adopt a ‘decoy’ house to be dropped off at by friends. Eventually she went to college at Emerson in Boston where she kept a clean living space, as she did when she later moved to L.A. and New York City. The reader senses in this horrific story that Miller is still tiptoeing around her family’s dirty secret and hardly revealing the half of it.

II. Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding, Jessie Sholl

The more I talked about my mother’s compulsive hoarding, the weaker my secret became. Until it was gone. Jessie Sholl

Sholl’s book Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding came out in 2010, when the issue wasn’t yet widely known.

In an interview at the time with Rebecca Cramer, Kirkus Reviews, Sholl explains a significant turning point in her processing of the experience: she learned “that there’s actually a chemical basis for hoarding. It shows up in brain scans of hoarders that their metabolic activity rates in the parts of the brain that have to do with emotion and decision-making and memory are slower. Just knowing that helped a lot because it made me realize that this is a disease. It’s similar to schizophrenia or even cancer.”

Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D., co-author of Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save and How You Can Stop, reviews this book:”Suspenseful and novel-like, Dirty Secret is a wonderful, respectful introduction to the world of a hoarder and the tribulations suffered by both the individual who hoards and their family members.”

***For more info about this topic check out the site Children of Hoarders.

Nov 27

Compulsive Shopping, Otherwise Known As Retail Therapy

According to Wikipedia, compulsive shopping, otherwise known as retail therapy, is “shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit.”

At least one study supports the idea that, for some, there may indeed be therapeutic value in this endeavor.

What if you find that you can’t stop at the occasional episode of retail therapy? What if you develop a continuous urge to splurge? A different thing altogether can ensue—a different thing with a different name. Names, that is.

Compulsive shopping. Compulsive overspending. Shopping addiction. Shopaholism. Oniomania. (Fairly synonymous with the previous labels.) Shopping bulimia. Compulsive buying disorder.

Compulsive buying disorder is “characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment. Found worldwide, the disorder has a lifetime prevalence of 5.8% in the US general population,” according to the World Psychiatry journal.

Shopping bulimia as defined by Dr. Robi Ludwig (Today Show): “when people are overwhelmed by the desire to buy something in order to feel better, but once the initial happy buzz of buying wears off, they realize they can’t afford their spree, so they quickly return their purchases.”

I won’t go into defining every single term. The point is that for some people retail therapy goes beyond fun and into obsessive and/or compulsive territory. A 2006 Stanford University study’s conclusion was that about six percent of women and nearly that number of men are compulsive buyers of some type. A sizable number of these also go on to become hoarders.

The website of Terrence Shulman, founder of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding provides some helpful info about these issues.

Therapy for shopping/spending issues often includes referral to 12-step programs. A couple are and