The information gathered here comes from:
- members of an online support group for children of compulsive hoarders (COH™) with 2,100+ members and @ 37,000+ messages (“The Group“)
- a separate discussion forum (now inactive after 4 years online) on the Children of Hoarders website for all friends and family of hoarders with over 3,000 members and 11,900+ messages (“The Forum“)
- observations from moderators and tracking of familiar themes from moderating both those discussion areas since 2/8/2006. (where 500+ stories/experiences with hoarding parents and family members have been submitted anonymously.)
The experiences included here may not be true for every child of a hoarder or every family with a hoarding member.
The dynamics in a family can be influenced in many different levels by the hoarding behavior, depending on the personalities within the family and the degree of the hoarding disorder and comorbid conditions. Just like all COH™ are unique, so are our families and parents who compulsively hoard. There are many different factors (i.e.-trauma) that can contribute to hoarding and its severity.
We are not going to try and unlock all those mysteries here. We’ll leave all that to the qualified professional researchers. (Read more about that here: DSM-V Planning & Research Website) Clearly there is more research, (and funding for research), needed in this area.
This is however, for COH™ to read about experiences in childhood and adulthood that they may share with others who have a HP (Hoarding Parent.) This is also for the general public and professionals who work with children, to gain a better understanding of the COH experience.
Most prevalent in our areas of discussion, is the sharing about parents who hoard and seem to have personality disorders along with the hoarding behavior. Please keep in mind while reading this, that some parents who hoard may be nurturing, loving and supportive towards their children and just happen to have the compulsions to hoard things. We might not hear the voices of those COH™ as loudly as the ones who have anger and frustrations to vent. Some COH™ report their parents did not start hoarding until they left the home and the “empty nest syndrome” kicked in. We might not hear those voices as much either.
It seems however, the majority and the most vocal of the adult children seeking support in our online areas have a parent(s) with more extreme forms of hoarding, have been at it a long time (prior to the children leaving the home), accompanied by one or more personality disorders. Again, not all, but it seems, the majority. Not to mention most of these HP seem to lack insight into their hoarding behavior being a problem that needs professional treatment and support to manage at all.
So please keep in mind what is written here may not be the rule for all COH™ or hoarders. We want to make sure that is clear, along with the fact we are not mental health professionals. We are COH hoping to raise awareness and support other COH.
Many COH have expressed relating to the traits of children of alcoholics; who were unnoticed and misunderstood for a long time, until Janet G. Woititz wrote her first book in 1984 about Children of Alcoholics.
Unending thanks go out to all the COH™ who shared their experiences. We hope this site will open hearts, minds, and homes, with understanding about our parents’ disorder, and about how COH™ are affected.
Congratulations to all the adult children of hoarders for speaking out about the “family secret.” The COH™ growing up behind us will never have to wonder if their families are “the only ones,” like so many of us did.