MANY people have a loft full of boxes and bags gathering dust, but for some, the problem of hoarding becomes an obsession that takes over their home and ruins their life.
Now sufferers of compulsive hoarding will have the chance to talk about it with others who share the condition, thanks to a new support group.
The Compulsive Hoarding Action Group Edinburgh (CHAnGE) is thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland and only the second in the UK.
It aims to provide help to people whose homes are so full of unnecessary belongings that they can barely live in them.
The group is being set up by psychologist Martina Papmeyer, who wrote her MA thesis on the subject while studying at Cambridge. Now a PhD student at the Edinburgh University, she said there was a need for help for people suffering from the condition.
“I met several individuals who suffer from compulsive hoarding during the research I conducted at Cambridge, and I realised that no-one is providing support for them, they are totally stuck in their clutter and don’t know what to do,” she said.
“I spoke to many of them and visited their homes and it’s quite shocking how they’re just stuck there and there’s no help available for them – I thought it was really time to do something.”
She has so far made contact with a handful of hoarders through the group’s new website at www.changehoarding.org, but hopes more will come forward and take the offer of help.
Ms Papmeyer estimates that around 2 per cent of the population suffer from the problem to some degree, and nobody knows exactly what causes the condition.
One thing that is clear is the debilitating effect it can have, according to Ms Papmeyer.
“I met a hoarder who wasn’t able to use his bathroom any more, he couldn’t take a shower or go to the toilet, he couldn’t cook any more.
“He was going to the local pub to eat and going to the local swimming pool to take a shower. Many people can’t invite friends into their home any more because they feel so ashamed, and also sometimes it’s nearly impossible to enter through the door.”
While there is no quick fix, she said the group will at least give people the chance to talk to others who understand.
CHAnGE will hold its first meeting on February 2 at the Eric Liddell Centre in Morningside Road, from 7
.30pm to 9pm, and will then meet on the first Thursday of every month.For more information, visit the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.