Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is A&E's Horders the best depiction of mental illness on TV today?


 According to Reality TV critic,  Andy Denhart, it is. On today's blog, Denhart writes-
Hoarders works because you can see mental illness and its effects on screen like never before: in piles of trash, or rotting food, or feces-covered toilet paper, or, in one especially disturbing episode, dozens of dead cats. The two people featured in each episode are usually at some kind of turning point—their relationship is deteriorating, they’re going to be evicted—and so a professional organizer and/or specialist comes in with a cleaning crew to help them deal with what has accumulated over the years.
But the subjects’ mental illness—for which hoarding may just be a symptom—prevents them from being able to do that, which makes it obvious that they aren’t just being stubborn. That frustration is clear in friends and family members, but particularly in the workers who have been hired to help clean up. They can’t understand why it matters that they threw away a piece of broken tile, for example.
People with mental illnesses hording is not a new thing. D. Jablow Hershman  in his book 'Manic Depresion and Creativity" mentions the fact that Victorian writer Thomas de Quincey "(He) piled  his papers until every piece of furniture and every inch of floor were covered with them, leaving only a clear path to the door. He called this process "snowing up." When a room reached that condition, de Quincey locked the door  and left it forever. He did that to six rooms." (p. 192)

Probably the most famous hoarders were the American Collyer Brothers, Homer and Langley.  Both were eventually found dead in 1947, in the Harlem brownstone where they had lived as hermits, surrounded by over 130 tons of rubbish that they had amassed over several decades. E.L Doctorow's  2009 novel "Homer and Langley' and Stephen King's "Salem's Lot' were both inspired by the brother's story.

"Horders"  is worth a look if you find it on your TV schedule, or download from iTunes or Hulu. But as a warning- if you love animals, cats and dogs, do not see the episode with the woman who hoards cats. 

A viewable  preview of the season finale is here.

8 comments:

Mark p.s.2 said...

I have a good amount of Horder in me, but not for anything disgusting such as dead animals or anything unhygienic. I think I fear losing something important and irreplaceable. During childhood my parents would disappear items of my own and pretend it never happened.
Comic books, toys and once a wind organ piano I was having fun with and trying to learn/get better at. I remember I got compliments from my grandparents from a short improvised performance I put on.
Comic books removed because I shouldn't be a dummy. Organ removed because I shouldn't be a musician.
As a teen the Horde kept my mother out of my room.
I excelled at reading books as a result of comic books being banned, but this bit my fathers plans for me in the ass, as the reading material was so intellectual , it helped me go insane. I should have been dummer.

Anthony said...

Funny, one of my new co-workers has a wife who is a hoarder. She saves stuff that she doesn't need anymore. I told him to wait until she's out of the house and throw it away. By the time she realizes it's gone, it will be meaningless.

The hoarding is a form of mental illness. Every so often, I go through the place and chuck out junk I've been saving, thinking I would need it. The truth is, I don't need any of it.

Those home renovation TV shows crack me up too. The hosts put a bunch of their junk out on the front lawn and challenge the owners to throw out what they don't need. Invariably, the owners want to keep most of it. It's funny to watch the juxtaposition of what they want versus what they need.

Funny and sad.

wendy said...

My mother and my grandmother both had varing degrees of hording. The sad part is that it is so difficult to help overcome because they have no rational reason for each piece they save, but each piece represents some part of them and strangly enough they KNOW when you have thrown something out - because the space changes shape.
In the show and in my experience, none of the horders are every really "cured" because the root problem isn't found - people look at the piles of junk thinking that is the problem not what is going on in the mind of the horder.
It is so shocking to people who have never seen it in it full glory - I hope more people do watch the show and see real mental illness in action.

jeanne said...

I have a friend, my best friend who needs help. Her house is really bad. I've worked with crisis intervention,aging (she 61) The neighbors filed a complaint with dj. and codes, The gave her 30 days and she got a dumpster and whatever she thru out has been filled in again. The gave her another 10 days,,,now they are talkinf jail time (maybe good so we can get in to throw ou) house really needs to be gutted. furnace doesnt work, water has to turn on and off because no one will go in the house to fix it. She is diabetic and Im worried about her,, it took ten years for the house to get like this,,She cant understand why the neighbors worry about her house, her son has washed his hands of it, please tell ne where to go or something to do...Worried

randy said...

What "Horders" needs to show on some episode is what the average family can do, if anything, short of bringing in a mental health specialist to help families cope with a horder. It is so frustrating to see 20 years+ of clutter in a loved-one,s house and be able to do nothing about it. Perhaps explain to the general public how to get someone to accept that they have a problem so that they can seek the appropriate help. The fact is the horder in my family will not even entertain the notion that she is a horder and becomes enraged at the very thought there is something wrong with her. She is an intelligent person who lives in a four story house with a garage that is an old foundry with every room stacked with junk. She keep every piece of mail, newspaper, magazines, empty boxes, adds with coupons that expired in the 1980's, empty bags and clothes from 20 and 30 years ago. Her house has a full basement, 4 bedrooms, an attic, and a giant garage and you have to walk sideways in every area to get through. The mere suggestion of eliminating the clutter enrages her. She refuses to weatch the tv show, "Horders". Her tv shopping addiction just adds to the disaster. The UPS man is on a first name basis with her. Please tell the public how to get the ball rolling without a formal commitment to a mental health facility.

susan said...

Randy, I don't know the answer but I can try to find out.

Jennifer said...

my mother-in-law was/is a horder. my boyfriend (now husband) hadn't been in his mom's apartment in 4 years. i told him he needs to get in there and find out what's going on. it was bad!!! the bathroom was closed off, piled with trash almost to the ceiling, the tub too. everything was moldy and wet. she was using the restroom at the grocery store for years :( her stairwell was completely blocked by a sofa, boxes and trash. she was climbing in and out a window and using the fire escape. her bedroom was also closed off, piled to the ceiling with trash. the livingroom was awful, a narrow path leading to the sofa. where she did all her eating, sleeping, and sitting :( half the sofa was covered too, it was awful! her kitchen was unbelieveable. she saved old tupperware lids (just the lids) flattened cereal boxes, jars, etc. my husband found out that her landlord was evicting her. we tried to help her clean it up, but we couldn't do it alone, we got the family to help. she barricade herself in the apartment and refused to let us throw things away. unfortunately we had to have her temporarily committed. then went in and threw out a ton of trash. she got the meds she needs, and new apartment, and her family bought her all new furniture and everything she needed. she hordes a little still, but she's doing so much better. i love her so much :)

Brooke said...

My aunt is one
her house there's maybe a 9 inch path way to get around I'm really worried about her. she has one complete room filled with who knows what and me my aunt and cousin took a whole week to clean her what's suppose to be her dinning room. We had it spotless. It was like a normal persons should be. I went down to vist in only two weeks and it was exact same as it was before. I'm so worried for her because she's a heavy woman and she's in her fourtys and she's single and never had children. And I think it's because of her house that she's never had a life. I love her to death but I don't know how to help her.

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