Question: I am going crazy living with my husband’s undiagnosed OCD. I am not allowed to throw anything out. Our basement is full of “stuff.” He has “collections” of empty containers for shaving cream, deodorant, etc. I have to hide rubbish and then put it out on trash day or he will save it in his car. What should I do?
Answer 1: Hoarding can be due to OCD or to other disorders including schizophrenia, and in the elderly, dementia. You can bring educational materials about OCD to the house and encourage the person to read about OCD. The family should insist that the affected person be evaluated by a psychiatrist (“because we are concerned about you” or “care about you”). If the person refuses, you can call the public health authorities in your community, and they will make an inspection to determine whether a health hazard exists (vermin, etc.,). If they determine that such a hazard exists, they will clean out the house (after giving the person a chance to do so). The family can also seek family counseling from a psychiatrist or psychologist for more detailed ideas on how to manage this problem. Continued near the bottom of this page.
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Answer 2: It certainly sounds like your husband meets the diagnosis of OCD hoarding. If your husband is not willing to admit that he needs help, you will have to decide what your next step will be. In some cases, giving the person an ultimatum has worked, but the person giving the ultimatum needs to be committed to following through with the consequences (moving out, asking them to move out and dumping all the stuff, or whatever you are willing to do). In one similar case, the wife threatened to end the marriage if he didn’t agree to get help and to follow through with the assignments to get rid of stuff (and not accumulate more). We wrote up a contract in which the hoarder agreed to get rid of one box of stuff the first week, two the second week, and three boxes/week thereafter until his stuff fit into the amount of space his wife was willing to let him have in the basement. The agreement further stated that if he didn’t get rid of the specified amount in any given week, his wife could get rid of that much without his interference. Good luck!
Answer 3: Living with someone who has OCD diagnosed or not can be very challenging. The hoarding form of OCD is often a major source of tension at home. You can deal with this in a couple of ways. One is to try to talk to your husband about how this problem is affecting you and trying to get him to realize that it really is a significant problem. You can also look for a support group in your area or even start one for family members of people with OCD. You can get information on the treatment of hoarding and try to get your husband to work with someone who knows about this problem.
Answer 4: If possible, the best thing you could do would be to insist that he go for a consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist who is expert in OCD, or else you will not be able to continue living under these conditions with him. You might first give him some reading matter on OCD and compulsive hoarding, to see if you can get him reach some kind of an insight. If he doesn’t accept he has a problem, he certainly won’t be willing to go for help. With a problem as serious as you are describing, it doesn’t sound as if halfway measures will work. He will most likely need behavioral therapy and perhaps, medication to help him out of this predicament. Don’t hesitate about this. If you can’t help him out, at least you can do something about helping yourself. If he utterly refuses to do anything, go get some counseling for yourself, so that you can figure out your next move. Just remember that you cannot force him to get well if he isn’t inclined. Best regards.