Mental Illness and Disorganization

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, I would like to share some information about the link between mental illness and disorganization/hoarding.

Many individuals with mental illnesses also have issues with disorganization. This is primarily because the area of the brain most often affected by mental illness is the Central Executive. The CE is the primary area for planning future actions, initiating retrieval and decision processes, and integrating information coming into the system, all necessary for successfully organizing.

Disorders that can arise from a faulty CE are depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, compulsive disorganization, and hoarding.

To clarify, disorganization is not the same as clutter. Clutter can also be thought of as messiness whereas disorganization is broader. Disorganization is a lack of basic categorization accompanied by excessive clutter.

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization defines chronic disorganization using three criteria: having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of your current quality of life due to disorganization, and an expectation of future disorganization.

Sometimes, we all suffer from faulty CE functioning, especially where time management, attention and switching focus is concerned. Ways to help CE include: organizing workspace, minimizing clutter, and creating “to do” checklists.

When dealing with your own or someone else’s clutter and disorganization, it’s important to approach with compassion. Staying organized and relatively clutter free is difficult for everyone at some point in time. Compassion will create a nurturing environment in which to learn good organizing skills.

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