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Diogenes syndrome: cause, how does it start?

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A complex behavioral disorder, Diogenes syndrome is characterized by a tendency to hoard, neglect of one’s hygiene and social isolation. What is the cause ? Is it hereditary? What early signs? How to help a person affected?

Diogenes syndrome is a behavior disorder which is manifested in particular by a negligence in terms of personal and domestic hygiene and social isolation. In causeoften a childhood trauma. There supported of a person with Diogenes syndrome must be plural: social, medical and psychological. It’s what Diogenes syndrome? What are the causes? Is it hereditary ? how to help a person with Diogenes syndrome?

Definition: what is Diogenes syndrome?

First described in 1975 by a geriatrician from the city of Brighton in England – Dr. Clark – Diogenes syndrome is a behavior disorder complex characterized bycollection of objects. He often leads people to neglect their personal and domestic hygiene as well as isolation. “It must be understood that Diogenes syndrome is not a disease but a set of symptoms behind which there may be an associated disease or not“says Dr. Jean-Claude Monfort, neuropsychogeriatrician. Famous Diogenes include, for example, the film producer and director Howard Hughes or the sculptress Camille Claudel.

“The Diogenes are people who were born in paradise and who slowly or brutally pass into hell”

What are the causes of Diogenes syndrome?

Diogenes syndrome is probably due to early childhood trauma. After a long interval of life, without particularities, the process of “diogenization” can be triggered on the occasion of a separation, death or sudden change in circumstances.Like the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope – from whom the syndrome borrows the name – the Diogenes are people who were born in paradise and who slowly or suddenly pass into hell, confirms the psychogeriatrician. It is this rupture of life that goes completely disrupt their relationship to themselves and to others. This way of life is the visible part of an ancient invisible process that has caused the harmony of links with objects, the body and others to be lost.“. And to add: “I remind you that Diogenes of Sinope was born into a rich and loving home. But, very quickly, the father – a banker accused of making counterfeit money and risking a death sentence – flees in a boat with his family. The boat is captured by pirates and the young Diogenes sold as a slave“.

Is Diogenes syndrome hereditary?

No Diogenes syndrome is not hereditary at all. It is a pathology linked to a given moment, to the course of a person’s life.“replies Dr. Béatrice Millêtre, doctor of psychology.

“Usually it starts with the idea that each object is important and can be useful to youwhich is absolutely not true.“says Dr. Béatrice Millêtre”Except that afterwards, this idea will expand until the individual thinks that everything can be of interest. He even goes keep old journals that he hasn’t even read. There is this idea of want to save everything for later. It becomes a downward spiral” develops the psychologist.

What are the symptoms of Diogenes syndrome?

Several symptoms – sometimes very opposite – are suggestive of Diogenes syndrome:

  • accumulation of objects,
  • negligence of personal and domestic hygiene,
  • social isolation
  • asceticism and self-care.

Smells, cockroaches, water leaks, outbreak of fire, state of extreme malnutrition…

In psychoanalysis, two opposite symptoms can be the signposts of one and the same difficulty, recalls Dr. Monfort. Thus, the fact of don’t want to own anything or of pile it all up are two symptoms that reveal a inability to have a harmonious relationship with objects. Either people will be extremely attached to them and tend to accumulate them; or on the contrary, they will turn away from it and live in the most extreme destitution. Similarly, some Diogenes will look very neglected when others take great care of them. That’s why it’s a hard-to-find problem.

What are the profiles at risk?

Half the time, people with Diogenes syndrome have an associated disease. “It can be a Alzheimer’s syndrome in cases of neurodegenerative pathologies or schizophrenic syndrome, obsessive or phobic in psychiatric pathologies, says the psychogeriatrician. But, the associated pathologies, when they exist, are not risk factors for Diogenes syndrome. According to the concept of the exposome (total exposure to which an individual is subjected from conception to death), it is probable that very early on, in early childhood, a traumatic cause can be a risk factorfrom both Diogenes syndrome and an associated disease“.

When and who to consult?

THE diagnosis is very difficult to make because people with Diogenes syndrome are often alone and isolated. “Intervention is necessary when the Diogenes’ way of life becomes complicated: odors, cockroaches, water leak, fire outbreak, falls to the ground in a state of extreme malnutrition, etc. We often discover these situations in the columns of miscellaneous facts because a floor has given way due to accumulation or a fire has broken out.” confides Dr. Monfort. As a first resort, it is possible to contact the coordination action devices (DAC), to territorial support platforms (PTA), to Local information and coordination centers (CLICKS) or at Homes for the autonomy and integration of Alzheimer’s patients (MAIA). When there is an associated pathology, support will be provided by the corresponding care sector, psychiatry or geriatrics.

What is the treatment for Diogenes syndrome?

People with Diogenes syndrome seem to need everything but ask for nothing“explains Dr. Monfort. Hence the difficulty for the entourage, the social services, the town hall or a doctor to intervene: the Diogenes refuses all help.Support will be multidisciplinary – that is to say both social, psychological and medical when there is an associated pathology – and usually of long duration“.

A report must be made with the mayor or the prefect when the Diogenes syndrome is at the stage of complications. “Especially when the people pile up heavy, putrescible and flammable objects, insists the specialist. The situation is then dangerous both for the neighbors and for themselves. However, it should be kept in mind that this way of life is a protection : objects provide the Diogenes with security. If you abruptly delete this environment, they die. Hence the need forsupport as early as possible and over the long term“. After the evacuation of the heaps, there is often a recurrence testifying to the addiction to accumulations and the need for protection. But, the complications tend to decrease over time…

Thank you to Dr Béatrice Millêtre, doctor in psychology and to Dr Jean-Claude Monfort, neuropsychogeriatrician specialist in the subject and author of the book La Psychogériatrie

#Diogenes #syndrome #start

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