Does clutter cause depression? Does depression cause clutter? At any given moment during a high-clutter period in my household, I may argue the validity of both of these scenarios. Clutter has a special way of inspiring stress and frustration, which, more often than not, abets the inability to combat the mess. It becomes circular–which came first, the chicken or the egg? In the end, it seems to snowball into a tangled mess of tension and depression and it’s hard to tell what’s causing what.
Chronic disorganization is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it a generally specified symptom of depression–but ask just about anyone who suffers from clutter if they feel there is some type of link, and I bet 99 percent will say yes.
According to an article in The New York Times, excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem. People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding, a condition many experts believe is a mental illness in its own right, although psychiatrists have yet to formally recognize it.
Compulsive hoarding is defined, in part, by clutter that so overtakes living, dining and sleeping spaces that it harms the person’s quality of life. A compulsive hoarder finds it impossible, even painful, to part with possessions. It’s not clear how many people suffer from compulsive hoarding, but estimates start at about 1.5 million Americans, according to The Times.