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What can I do about sister with hoarding OCD

Psychiatric   (2,698 Views 8 Comments)
by meluhn meluhn (Member) Member

meluhn has 16 years experience and specializes in acute rehab, med surg, LTC, peds, home c.

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Hey Psych Nurses,

Just looking for a little advice on how to deal with my sister. I alternate between feeling sorry for her and resenting her b/c she drives me nuts. We come from a large family and when my dad died, the house was willed to her alone(long story). She has always been seen as handicapped in my family even though her only problem is that she has no common sense. She is a college grad and so is quite capable of functioning when she has to. I find it hard to have a relationship with her because the house that we all grew up in which is now hers is filled with crap. She saves everything..plastic zip lock bags, magazines, newspaper, junk mail, old clothes, etc. She stock piles things in her fridge and basement even though she lives alone. When you ask her why she has 20 24packs of toilet paper, she will say "they were on sale". Ditto for perishable items such as OJ and ice cream. Her 4 bedroom house is bigger than any of ours and is a disgusting mess to the point were nobody can even stay there when they are visiting from out of town. Her fridge is filled with old and moldy food which she occassionally offers to us if we come over. Yet she keeps on foodshopping spending way more than she needs to on her budget just to let it go bad. I find it hard to be in her presence because of all these things and the fact that she loves to play the victim. How can I maintain a relationship with her without going insane. I am afraid she is beyond help. I have told her that she has a form of ocd, but she fails to recognize it. The worst part is she is always pointing out how screwed up other people are, it is almost comical. To top it all off she is very passive aggressive. If we ever do anything together she will inevitably screw it up, eg., be an hour late,etc. Any advice would be appreciated.

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traumaRUs has 27 years experience as a MSN, APRN and specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

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How frustrating. Many of us have frustrating family members. At some point, you have to realize that she isn't going to change, so do things without her and get on with your life. If you can't change things (and it appears from your post that isn't possible), I would pull back and go on with things you can do: enjoy the rest of your family.

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RochesterRN-BSN has 6 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Psych, ER, Resp/Med, LTC, Education.

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I think you could be right but a full evaluation by a psychiatrist would be a good idea, and if she does indeed have OCD there are meds that can help a lot......however unless her behavior is unsafe its not like you could call and get her MHA'd to a hospital for an eval and even if you did if she is not a safety risk they would discharge her, despite maybe diagnosing her with something like OCD.....however the other part of the problem is if she doesn't feel this behavior is a problem she won't continue with outpatient treatment and certainly would not be med compliant so its a catch 22. She needs to want help and needs to want to take meds and you can't force her to get that help unless she is a danger to herself or others......if there is danger in a sense of living conditions, etc...that could be an argument but hard to say......

There would need to be a full eval as well to be sure the hoarding is not related to any kind of paranoia, which I have seen or if it's more of an anxiety d/o like OCD. It's a lot more involved to do a full eval.....trust me, that is what I do for my job.......the nurses do 95% of the eval in our psych ER, then then the doc gives the dx.

Hope this helps.......and like a pp said if she doesn't want help and is not a danger you may just have to live with her the way she is.....

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Mr Ian has 15 years experience and specializes in mental health; hangover remedies.

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I'm not convinced it's simply OCD.

The indicators you gave:

She has always been seen as handicapped in my family even though her only problem is that she has no common sense.

She is a college grad and so is quite capable of functioning when she has to.

I find it hard to have a relationship with her because the house that we all grew up in which is now hers is filled with crap.

She saves everything..plastic zip lock bags, magazines, newspaper, junk mail, old clothes, etc. She stock piles things in her fridge and basement even though she lives alone.

When you ask her why she has 20 24packs of toilet paper, she will say "they were on sale". Ditto for perishable items such as OJ and ice cream.

The worst part is she is always pointing out how screwed up other people are, it is almost comical.

To top it all off she is very passive aggressive.

If we ever do anything together she will inevitably screw it up, eg., be an hour late,etc. Any advice would be appreciated.

These indicate a more pervasive developmental disorder than a transient OCD.

Is she also clumsy at all or have difficulty in doing intricate jobs with her hands?

Does she only seem to have very functional relationships with people - like sees people as their job rathe than people doing a job?

Does she socially engage with anyone casually when you are out together - like exchange hello's with the greeter or till attendant randomly?

Does she ever talk 'girly' stuff with you like boys or make up?

Does she seem very practical and lack spontaneity?

Does she tend to stick to the same daily routine?

Has she ever had a boyfriend?

How old were your parents when they had her? Over 40?

Is she youngest?

As a child did she display any other similar collecting behaviours?

Did she have many friends growing up or just play by herself?

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meluhn has 16 years experience and specializes in acute rehab, med surg, LTC, peds, home c.

661 Posts; 8,536 Profile Views

I'm not convinced it's simply OCD.

The indicators you gave:

These indicate a more pervasive developmental disorder than a transient OCD.

Is she also clumsy at all or have difficulty in doing intricate jobs with her hands? No

Does she only seem to have very functional relationships with people - like sees people as their job rathe than people doing a job? Not really

Does she socially engage with anyone casually when you are out together - like exchange hello's with the greeter or till attendant randomly? Yes, she is polite to a fault, if anything, always worrying that she is not being nice enough.

Does she ever talk 'girly' stuff with you like boys or make up? She is kind of asexual.

Does she seem very practical and lack spontaneity? She lacks the ability to reason--common sense. She doesn't really think things through, just acts.

Does she tend to stick to the same daily routine? No more or less than anyone else I suppose.

Has she ever had a boyfriend? No, not a real one and she is over 40.

How old were your parents when they had her? Over 40? No they were in their 30s, she was a middle child.

Is she youngest?

As a child did she display any other similar collecting behaviours? I dont know she is a few years older than me.

Did she have many friends growing up or just play by herself?

She had few close friends.

Mr Ian, You are right on about some things, please tell me what you are thinking it is.

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Mr Ian has 15 years experience and specializes in mental health; hangover remedies.

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Mr Ian, You are right on about some things, please tell me what you are thinking it is.

Well given that most my thoughts didn't actually tally with your answers to what I expected .... I can only say I don't think she's got Asperger's.

To be honest - as a professional I shouldn't speculate - and nor should I really discuss what your sister may or may not have. As an individual she has a right to her own privacy and if she chooses not to be 'diagnosed' then that's for her to decide.

There's nothing about what you describe that makes me think she's a danger to herself or others and the things you describe may well be just eccentricity. They may equally just be her choice.

I think your comments on her inability to reason are interesting and without putting any labels to her - I would suggest she is more 'impulsive' in her behaviour than OCD hoarding.

Whichever it is tho - your question was:

Just looking for a little advice on how to deal with my sister.
Whatever her issues are - it's not a case of what's wrong with her - and I mean this in a friendly way - but what is it about her that you find hard to deal with?

I find it hard to be in her presence because of all these things and the fact that she loves to play the victim.
If she plays the victim then it's for a reason.

If you find it hard to be in her presence then have you told her?

Have you told her in a way that is non-confrontational? Like just asked her why she's like she is?

How can I maintain a relationship with her without going insane. I am afraid she is beyond help. I have told her that she has a form of ocd, but she fails to recognize it.
She may well not have OCD.

Is she happy?

Some of the things sound as if they may be unusual or eccentric in the least - or perhaps there is a cognitive reason for her being that way. But she's made it to 40 so she can't be that bad.

If I can give you anything to go with - I would guess your sister is more emotional than intellectual, she is more spontaneous than restrained and she is more laid back than stressed out.

So what can you do?

I would say you could cherish her and support her. And help her clean the fridge out once a week.

Edited by Mr Ian

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Here is a page of good links from the Dr. Phil show. Yeah, I know Dr. Phil is not a psychiatrist, but I watched a couple of these shows and they offered some excellent insights and good information about resources.

I fight the urge to hang on to too much stuff, so I see that side of things. But I was also a psych nurse for a long time and can understand the health issues involved.

Here is the link:

http://drphil.com/search/results/hoarding/

Here's another link, this one for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):

http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?section=Find_Support

They have information on ways for family members to learn about their loved one's issues and find support among people in similar circumstances.

Hope this helps.

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Prettyladie specializes in Emergency.

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idk if i can relate to your sister. but id buy that much toilet paper and food if it was on sale..i always have..and always will. thats smart to me. but i dont call myself OCD. i know this is the lesser part of the conversation. but i just wanted to voice my opinion.

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