Hoarders on Reality TV… teachable moments or exploitation?
The first time I ever happened upon a show about hoarders, I was riveted to the screen. It was a mixture of horror, sympathy, and fascination for the hoarders and their loved ones. How did it all begin and how did it get so far? Would these folks change their ways after the cameras and counselors made their exit?
Then I caught a few more episodes and began to feel like an intruder into a very personal psychological drama.
A & E describes Hoarders as a “fascinating look inside the lives of people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis. Whether they’re facing eviction, the loss of their children, jail time, or divorce, they are all desperately in need of help. In a fly-on-the-wall style, we’ll capture the drama as experts work to put each on the road to recovery.” The show provides professional help and the guidance of an organizer.
Hoarding: Buried Alive
TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive takes a look at the homes of “extreme hoarders to explore the psychology behind their compulsion to accumulate and store large quantities of nonessential things. Each episode tells the stories of hoarders struggling with behavior that has made every day existence unbearable for both them and their loved ones. With the help of expert therapists and organizers, the hoarders will attempt to unlock the key to their obsessions in hope of reclaiming their lives.”
Style’s Clean House takes a somewhat lighter approach in that many of the people profiled fall into a category more along the lines of “pack rat” or simply temporarily grossly disorganized. Host Niecy Nash even manages to inject a bit of levity into the situation, along with a few tears. The show’s search for the “messiest home in the country” delves into the more serious territory of extreme hoarders.
As for reality television, a case could be made for spreading awareness. Many people would know nothing about the condition otherwise, and it is impossible to know how many viewers saw themselves in their television counterparts and gained the courage to seek help upon learning, at last, that they are not alone in their prison of possessions.
While a certain amount of fascination is understandable, one is left to wonder about the long-term psychological effects for those involved after their most vulnerable moments and deepest traumas are laid bare for all the world to see.
Image Credit: fairfaxcounty.gov
Next: Risk Factors and Treatment for Hoarding