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This Is What Talking To A Mental Health Expert About My Habit Of Hoarding Clothes Made Me Realise

My mental health needed saving and so did the planet!

Sonakshi Babbar

“Three words, nine letters. Say it, and I'm yours: ADD-TO-CART!,” screamed every piece of clothing that I found even remotely fashionable online.  

Team Blair Waldorf (from Gossip Girl for the uninitiated) knows exactly what I’m talking about. Arguably, my obsession with clothes, shoes, bags, and jewellery was just as intense as Blair’s with Chuck Bass. And what was common between our objects of obsession was the fact that they were toxic for our mental health and in my case—even my bank balance.

One remotely fashionable piece of clothing on the web and boom! It would be in my virtual shopping cart the very next second, ready to engulf my digital money in all its glory. Because better to buy that actually nugatory dress that I could totally rock at a completely made-up, non-existent occasion than to not have anything to wear to that imaginary event in case I got a last-minute invitation, or so, I said to myself.

A shopping urge so strong…

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… that it could put to shame the sheer shiddat of all aashiqs combined from all Imtiaz-Ali movies ever made. An urge so strong, it would silence any voice of reason that might rise in my head. So what if it’s not available in my size? I could lose some weight. So what if my wardrobe is already so stuffed that you can’t even place a feather there? The side-table drawers are yet to be conquered. So what if I’d be left with 70 bucks in my bank account after that purchase? There could be a hidden treasure somewhere in the house to cover my other expenses. Now, if the appalling revelation of my bank balance makes the bit about speaking to a mental-health expert, sound unrealistic, I don’t blame you. Honestly, I didn’t spend a dime.

By virtue of my profession, I got in touch with Sheena Arora, counsellor and holistic healing expert at Aarvy Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, Gurgaon, to gain some insight. And here’s what opening up to her about my so-called “feel-good” habit made me realise:

My new motherhood was to be blamed for it

“This behaviour is an indicator of the hoarding disorder,” said Arora.“Chances are that there is a lack of emotional connection in your life and a huge inability to take decisions. You need to identify where it stems from,” she added.

Her opening statement hit me like thunder. What I might have been sweeping under the carpet was probably a plethora of emotions that came from feeling overwhelmed with my new motherhood. The fact is that while holding your own baby sparks mamta like no other, it also comes with a host of body-image issues and utter confusion because guess what? Your life has taken a 360-degree turn overnight and suddenly you’re responsible for another human being!

Now, the ideal way of dealing with it would have been to ask for help and share the emotions with near and dear ones. And nope, clothes are not near and dear ones, FYI—actually FMY (for my information).

What is this hoarding disorder all about though?

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“Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions or buying new ones because of a perceived need to stock up things. It is also linked with depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” she explained.

“A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of possessions and this results in excessive accumulation of items, regardless of their actual value. People may hoard clothing, photographs, food, household items, boxes, newspapers, magazines and more,” Arora added.

How can we deal with it?

“To break this cycle, start with accepting that there is an area of concern that is hindering a regular and healthy lifestyle,” she recommends. The next step is to ask for help and share your feelings. And that’s what I did. It was hard, but I felt light when I did and my partner immediately stepped up and shared more responsibility.

The other difficult aspect of it was to not act on my shopping impulse. “When you want to buy something, don’t do it immediately. Wait. And then, wait some more,” she added, and suggested analysing whether you really need the product.

If you need a bigger motivation, then hear it from me: Bankruptcy isn’t sweet, girls!

Neither is harming the environment

There’s all that talk about sustainability in fashion and the fashion industry relentlessly exploiting natural resources. I mean, the making of a simple cotton T-shirt needs 2,700 litres of water as per The World Wildlife Fund (WWF). By the way, that’s just about enough to sustain a person for two-and-a-half years.

The very thought made my fingers tremble every time I felt the urge to browse through that trendy designer’s website or checkout the very tempting new collection of a fast-fashion brand.

The final word

I finally realised that my hoarding disorder was a cry for help from all my suppressed emotions. And while buying the trendiest outfits was a great mood booster, it was a temporary one—which would fade away in days, making an even larger room for a new purchase.

Breaking this vicious cycle of anxiety fuelling more anxiety has boosted my mental health and of course—my bank balance. And if you happen to be going through something similar, don’t shy away from seeking professional help. Might as well spend all that moolah on your health, right?

Photo: Confessions Of A Shopaholic-Walt Disney Studios; Shutterstock
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