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HD Trauma


Growing up in a hoard varies widely.  Parents with undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions may be unable to meet children’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.  Many didn’t know parents had a mental illness. Others didn’t recognize a problem until much later.  People with HD and their children come in all shapes and sizes, just like everyone else.

Growing up in a biohazard, or with parents struggling to take care of themselves, can have lifelong consequences.  Many COHPs experience physical and emotional abuse and neglect.  Mental illness is on every list of the risk factors for child maltreatment, but mental illness does not make anyone abuse or neglect a child. 

COHPs often have many conflicted feelings about their parents. Some feel unloved and devalued because they feel they were treated worse than the garbage.  Some are bullied, invalidated, many live imprisoned in secrets. 

COHPs are often expected to take care of parents who could not take care of them.  HD clinicians expect more patience, understanding, and compassion from children raised by people with hoarding disorder than from their parents. COHPs are urged to work on relationships that are not safe by social workers and specialists in hazmat suits and are judged, blamed, and shamed by neighbors, family, and community officials for "allowing" legally competent adults to self-destruct.  

When seeking help from hoarding professionals, they are commonly offered psychoeducation to help parents, instead of assessing, and addressing, their trauma, and their individual needs for health and safety.

Rather than turning to hoarding professionals for relief or understanding, many have found resources focused on childhood, developmental, and complex trauma better suited to their needs.  

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is caused by chronic, repetitive, traumatic stress over a long period of time that alters the functioning of the nervous system.  Unlike PTSD which contrasts from ordinary experience, chronic traumatic stress occurring in relationship with primary caregivers and/or in the course of daily life (e.g., bullying, child abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment), rather than a disruptive event or episode (e.g., accident, violent attack, natural disaster, military service) may deeply affect relationships and expectations of safety.  For many who experience childhood trauma, there is no self, life, or relationship before, or without, the traumatic experience.

While CPTSD is not currently distinguished from PTSD in the DSM-5, the World Health Organization (WHO), in its 2018 ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases, 11th revision), included Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), taking effect in 2022.

Many COHPs find information about childhood, complex, and developmental trauma helpful. Trauma screening can be an important tool for COHPs.


NCTSN Trauma Screening


The Body Keeps Score, van der Kolk

The Boy Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry

NCTSN What is Child Trauma?

Trauma Pages, David Baldwin PhD


Sidran Institute