Diogenes Syndrome: Living in Extreme Squalor
Always looking for positive ways to channel my teenager's energy, I signed us up to help with a church-affiliated community rebuilding project. Hmm...Think Grey Gardens minus The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouis. We were just along for the ride - I didn't know any of the back story, but it didn't take long for the clinician in me to assess the situation.
It was a case of three able bodied adults who disclosed psychiatric diagnoses, living in extreme squalor with a few cats and at least one dog. I've seen it before and it's always terrifying. It has a name. It is called Diogenes Syndrome or Squalor Syndrome or Messy House Syndrome.
- living in isolation
- severe self-neglect
- hoarding behaviors
- compulsive hoarding is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- excessive acquisition of objects
- hoarding is different than collecting. Collecting is an organized activity and others can appreciate that which is collected.
- inability to discard possessions
- interpersonal relationships are mediated by objects
- refusal of help
- lack of insight
- loss of initiative
Public health hazards, fire hazards, personal health hazards are evident to the casual observer in these cases. Prognosis is poor. Management is challenging. The specter of it is chilling. It inspired me to go home and ruthlessly throw or give away bags of unneeded items and scrub everything until gleaming.
Thank you Dean Terry for use of photo, Gun Room.