Stigma and its Impact

Language matters. That is a very strong sentence, but what does it mean to you?

There is an old expression “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but Words will never hurt me.” That is an interesting concept, but many of us have experienced just the opposite. Broken bones heal; however, the damage done by words can last a lifetime. A comment or insult, especially when repeated over and over, can be internalized and haunt one in moments of doubt or when a trigger brings memories of the past into the present.


Individuals dealing with the challenge of hoarding are and can be stigmatized repeatedly in many ways. The television shows present the most extreme cases and play for the drama that will attract viewers. One problem with the television shows, such as “Hoarders,” is that many see those shows as presenting the rule not the exception.

Unfortunately, friends and family members not strangers deliver much of the shame experienced by individuals. The conflicts created by living in hoarded homes cause

individuals to shut down. The person creating the clutter becomes defensive. Roommates or family members become frustrated. Productive communication, if it was ever possible, stops.

As a result, isolation is a chronic problem. The fear of being judged, misunderstood, or humiliated stops one from seeking help. In other instances, the help is ineffective and can be more counter-productive than helpful.

Sixty percent of individuals who are diagnosed with hoarding disorder also qualify for a diagnosis of depression. Unfortunately, this can create a vicious cycle. The living environment triggers the depression and the depression triggers the need to comfort oneself by acquiring.

There are several other diagnoses that individuals may be dealing with in addition to hoarding disorder. Anxiety is one example. And, a negative cycle similar to what can be seen with depression can occur with the other diagnoses as well.

The goals, related to stigma, for the 18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering is to look at the stigma associated with the behavior, the stigmatizing language that is often used and the internalization of the shame. The desired outcome of this evaluation is to consider how we change the language to remove the stigma, how we focus on the behaviors not on the labels, and how we can have a positive impact on public attitudes.


During the work group sessions on Thursday and Friday attendees have the opportunity to both assess the issue of stigmatization and to brainstorm solutions that might address the problem. The goal is combine the expertise of peers, therapists, researchers and service provides to look at these and other issues. These sessions provide a unique opportunity of collaboration bringing together the varied perspectives from each of these groups.

Come join us at MHA’s 18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering and help us work to impact the future.


#JoinUs, March 22-23, 2018 for our 18th Annual Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

Think Outside the Boxes: Innovation in Action

To learn more about the conference, click here.

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