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Contributing factors


Judging by anecdotal evidence on our forum, the most common contributing factor is psychological, with clinical depression seemingly leading the way. Other psychological causes are: obsessive-compulsive hoarding, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Postpartum depression, SAD, to name a few.

Clinical Depression

According to the DSM-IV-TR (p. 356), the two principal or required elements of depression include:

  1. depressed mood, or
  2. loss of interest or pleasure.

It is sufficient to have either of these symptoms in conjunction with four of a list of other symptoms. The diagnosis does not require "loss of interest in life, anhedonia". Likewise, "lack of energy and motivation" is not at all a required symptom of Major Depression. Often depression is accompanied by sleep disorders such as insomnia, including early-morning awakening and by feelings of greatly lowered self-worth. Depression is often described as being unable to feel - even to feel many negative emotions such as sadness. Some depressed individuals will have to sleep or rest all day because their bodies unconsciously know it is best to lie low away from danger during this vulnerable period. Clinical Depression entry, Wikipedia

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life. A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) can happen a few days or even months after childbirth. PPD can happen after the birth of any child, not just the first child. A woman can have feelings similar to the baby blues - sadness, despair, anxiety, irritability - but she feels them much more strongly than she would with the baby blues. PPD often keeps a woman from doing the things she needs to do every day. When a woman's ability to function is affected, this is a sure sign that she needs to see her health care provider right away. If a woman does not get treatment for PPD, symptoms can get worse and last for as long as 1 year. While PPD is a serious condition, it can be treated with medication and counseling.Postpartum Depression, from the National Woman's Health Information Center

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated half a million people every Winter between September and April, in particular during December, January and February. It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. SAD Association (UK)


Physical problems are another common cause: Fibromyalgia and CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), Attention Deficit Disorder, hypothyroidism, dust allergies, arthritis, and Alzheimers. Even temporary physical setbacks (recovering from an injury, illness or surgery) can complicate housekeeping problems. Lack of energy, chronic pain, and other symptoms make keeping up with routine chores difficult, or even impossible. As a result, the house slides into disarray. At some point, the mess in the becomes overwhelming. By the time the house has reached this level, it may be hard to convince the family to pitch in, or even to overcome the embarrassment and employ a cleaning service.

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Behavioral and situational

Now add behavioral problems (perfectionism, learned hoarding behavior), financial problems, employment and family situations. All have been seen here, frequently combined with other triggers.

Unless you treat the true cause(s), permanent change isn't promising. That's why much of the advice offered on the forum is for new folks is to see a health care professional. Get contributing psychological and physical problems under as much control as possible, and then you have a chance to succeed with your squalor. Depressive states don't respond well to challenges. In fact, there are times when simply getting up in the morning is a challenge. Depressed people don't need more adversity in their lives.