--Original published at Jayln's Perspective
Although I am pretty familiar with the reality television show, Hoaders, I could never actually bring myself to watch it. I never understood why millions of people would take time out of their schedules to watch other individuals struggle with a serious mental illness. A few years ago, just thinking about the show made me feel uncomfortable. Before this assignment, I initially thought Hoarders was an inappropriate form of entertainment because it put people’s lives on display. I never thought this was right – or even ethical! I felt as if those who were on the show were being wrongfully exposed, and I thought the purpose of the show was to mock what they are going through. Now, after learning more about mental health in our psychology class, I realize I may have been ignorant, and I might have misjudged the motivations behind airing this type of show. I wrongfully assumed Hoarders to be an unethical program without even watching it, but after reading various articles, I now realize the people on the show have agreed to be on television. I think this is because the majority of the individuals on the show actually have the desire to get better, and they want a public platform to share their stories. Throughout this semester, we have observed what psychology looks like in the media. In order to solidify my opinions concerning this topic, I discovered differing online sources to ensure I understood both sides.
The first article I found, written by Laurie Edwards-Tate, discusses how Hoarders has successfully created necessary awareness for the serious psychological condition of compulsive hoarding. The author effectively paints a picture describing what the hoarders’ homes look like, and how much the clutter, lack of organization, and reclusiveness devastates their families. This article accurately draws connections between the show and the symptoms of serious hoarding, citing reliable sources like the Mayo Clinic. Edwards-Tate points out how Hoarders accurately depicts the ways in which these very real symptoms show up in the lives of those with the illness. Instead of simply reading the symptoms in order to gain perspective into this type of mental illness, by watching Hoarders, viewers can truly see how these symptoms dictate those who are affected. Although it is unfortunate, Edwards-Tate also expresses how much the older generation is affected by this disorder. The show is important because it can show the younger generation ways to care for those with compulsive hoarding tendencies. Edwards-Tate closes this article with advice and evidence centered around what not to do around these individuals. For example, she explains how going behind a hoarder’s back and throwing their stuff away while only isolate the hoarder further. Although this article helped me gain perspective into why Hoarders should be watched, it still is not extremely credible because it was deeply opinionated, and it read like a blog. Regardless, it was still an informative article to read because it did cite the Mayo Clinic, and the author clearly understood the ramifications of this type of mental illness.
The next article I read in support of TV shows which delve into mental health disorders, like Hoarders, is located on a website called “Everyday Health.” This article is set up like a blog post, with health professions, Debbie Stanley, Marilyn Tomfohrde, and Lori Watson, commenting their opinions on the benefits, and the negative aspects, of this type of show. This was an interesting article to read because two of the health professions, Tomfohrde and Watson, agree that Hoarders is a positive program, which gives an honest representation of what it is like to have a mental illness like compulsive hoarding. Stanley, however, disagrees and believes Hoarders does more harm than good, and it even exploits those who are on the show. The evidence she uses to support stems from how the show treats the hoarders. For example, she explains how the show highlights the affected individuals as societal outcasts. Instead of causing people to be sympathetic, Stanley believes these types of shows targets individuals and makes them feel alone, which furthers their compulsive behaviors. The health professions who are in agreeance with TLC’s choice to air Hoarders also use evidence to support their opinions. For example, Watson explains how Hoarders not only shows people how to deal with their mental illnesses, but it also brings families together because this program allows them to deal with the illness as a family unit. She expresses how difficult it is for people with mental illness to seek help on their own, so having a program, which brings organizing specialists into their lives, helps them cope. It even helps their families become part of the process, which produces greater odds in them overcoming this type of illness. Much like Lori Watson, Marilyn Tomfohrde also believes Hoarders is an accurate representation of this particular condition. She expresses how effectively Hoarderscaptures the realness behind what it is like to have a mental illness. By helping people deal with their hoarding addiction and airing it publicly, it provides hope for others who are dealing with compulsive hoarding tendencies. This article was interesting because it came from three healthcare professionals: one who disagreed with the show, and two who agreed. Although the two agreed with Hoarders, the person with disagreeing input gave me a new perspective, and also decreased potential bias. Although this site was insightful, and the comments were meaningful, I wouldn’t say it has a lot of scholarly merit. Since it was set up like a blog, it consisted of three individual’s opinions instead of pure psychological facts and findings.
After reading these first two articles, which were mainly in support of controversial mental health TV shows, I wanted to get a different perspective. The first article I visited which advised against watching Hoarders is called, “Hoarding Reality Shows Might Do More Harm Than Good.” The author, Anna Almendrala, believes this show degrades the seriousness of mental health issues. She states those who are on the show are rushed to throw away their things just so they can entertain people. Almendrala critiques the show because it suggests compulsive hoarding is a disorder which can be resolved quickly. It suggests people can hire a cleaning lady to fix all their problems, and then they don’t have to deal with their mental health again. Despite her criticisms, Almendrala does commend the show for drawing attention to mental health issues; however, she does not believe it should be a form of entertainment for people since it is such a serious issue for some. This article seems the most credible out of all of the websites I visited. Almendrala addresses the pros and cons of watching the show, instead of simply stating the negative impacts it may have. She references reports from the British Psychological Society, and she also quotes multiple psychologists about what it means to suffer from compulsive hoarding. This article was easy to read because of its organization, and it also presented a logical and well-researched argument for not watching shows like Hoarders.
I chose to view “Stop Watching ‘Hoarders:’ Our Lurid Reality TV Obsession with Mental Illness Has Crossed a Line” as my last article, which highly disagrees with how the show represents mental health illnesses. The author, Rachel Kramer Bussel, never watched the show because she personally dealt with hoarding tendencies. She did not want to watch others deal with it since she herself battles with it. After overcoming her issues with hoarding, she decided to give the show a try, in hopes it would help people by showcasing the hardships they are going through. She, however, was disappointed with how those on the show are represented. She believes the hoarders are exploited and are often misrepresented in order for the show to be approved for more seasons. Bussel supports her claims with evidence centering around how the commercials advertise the phrase “more extreme than ever.” She is sickened by this because the TV show is selfishly benefiting off the illnesses of others instead of trying to help them for honest reasons. The author does not believe Hoarders should be a reality TV show because mental health should be not a form of entertainment for “normal” people. Also, if people are trying to overcome compulsive hoarding, they shouldn’t watch Hoarders. Instead, she suggests reading memoirs, such as Judy Batalion’s White Walls, because it does not exploit the condition like reality TV does. She concludes the article by stating those who watch reality TV to avoid their own problems, should stop worrying about others and should take control of their own lives. I found this article, and the website, to be credible. Not only does the author supply evidence from how the show advertises to support her thoughts, but she also gives credit to other websites and psychologists who agree Hoarders should not be watched as reality television.
After reading all of these articles and gaining much more insight into this topic, I still believe Hoarders has the power to do good things for those who are struggling with compulsive hoarding. If people want to watch reality TV, I think it should be about something meaningful, that promotes change and understanding. After reading the articles opposed to the show, I realized the producers of Hoarders need to refrain from dramatizing mental illnesses in order to get viewers; however, I still think the way the show highlights the effects of hoarding, both on the individual’s personal life and their family, is a great way to promote the seriousness of mental health issues. After this semester, I now realize the effects of mental health, and how necessary it is to continue to help those who seek attention.
Almendrala, Anna. “Hoarding Reality Shows Might Do More Harm Than Good.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 17 June 2015, www.huffpost.com/entry/hoarding-reality-shows_n_7605804.
Bussel, Rachel. “Stop Watching ‘Hoarders’: Our Lurid Reality TV Obsession with Mental Illness Has Crossed a Line.” Salon, Salon.com, 23 Jan. 2016, www.salon.com/2016/01/23/stop_watching_hoarders_our_lurid_reality_tv_obsession_wth_mental_illness_has_crossed_a_line/
Edwards-Tate, Laurie. “Ending Its Fourth Season Next Week, the A&E Network Series Hoarders Is Drawing Huge Audiences and Higher Ratings than Ever.” Hoarders: Reality TV Exposes a Serious Psychological Condition | At Your Home Familycare, 11 Aug. 2011, atyourhomefamilycare.com/washington-times-communities/hoarders-reality-tv- exposes-a-serious-psychological-condition/.
Link: http://atyourhomefamilycare.com/washington-times-communities/hoarders-reality tv-exposes-a-serious-psychological-condition/
Stanley, Debbie, et al. “Does Reality TV Accurately Portray Hoarding?” Stroke Center EverydayHealth.com, Ziff Davis, LLC, 10 Jan. 2014, www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety- disorders/experts-does-tv-accurately-portray-hoarding.aspx.
Link: https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety-disorders/experts-does-tv-accurately- portray-hoarding.aspx