Meg Farris / Medical Reporter

NEW ORLEANS -- A group of adults are reaching out to children and other adults who have experienced the same trauma as they did.

They want them to know they are not alone if they grew up in a home cluttered by a parent who was a hoarder, and now they are sharing some of their most personal thoughts.

These adults have something in common, something that happened in childhood that causes great emotional pain.

'I'd have to make excuses why they couldn't come over, and then throughout high school I couldn't bring girlfriends over or friends,' said Greg Martin, the adult child of a hoarding parent who lives in Burbank, California.

'Anytime there was a new person that would come over, I was just like, 'Oh, they're going to see the 150 cans of sardines in the cabinet.' And they're going to think that's weird and all the toilet paper,' said Alison Frank of San Diego, California who is also the adult child of a hoarder.

'It's very isolating growing up the way we did emotionally,' added Peg Forbes of Franklin, Massachusetts who shares the same type of childhood with Martin and Frank.

They are the adult children of parents who have an illness of the brain, one that doctors say will soon be called hoarding syndrome.

They came to New Orleans for a weekend long seminar with clinical psychologist Dr. Suzanne Chabaud, who is an expert in obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, and hoarding.

'Many of these people never spoke to another child of a hoarder,' said Dr. Suzanne Chabaud, a clinical psychologist at The Gate in New Orleans. 'It was a tremendous experience of people being able to share their stories with each other.'

Dr. Chabaud regularly helps people who suffer with the mental illness on the show 'Hoarders' and she began seeing a pattern of pain in the children.

'Children of hoarders' lives are deprived in so many ways. It's not just the unhealthy environment, it's the emotional contact with a significant adult. It's the loss of skills for just maintaining their lives, down to bathing, making beds, organizing their belongings. You just can't put these children in foster homes. There has to be a program to help them through this,' Dr. Chabaud said.

And it still affects the children well into their adult lives.

'Still in the back of my head, I have a little bit of shame and paranoia,' Martin said.

'It never is about the stuff. The commonality that we had, it was the emotional trauma and the neglect and the lack of nurturing. It's wasn't the hoard,' Forbes said. 'It was the behavior around the hoard that was so damaging.'

Doctors continue to research hoarding. Medicines and therapy have been found to help. Studies even show that the genes you inherit may contribute to the illness.

Dr. Chabaud stresses that without medical treatment, few ever get well.

'You could have a meaningful life, with meaningful relationships, with your children, your grandchildren. Your primary relationship in life does not have to be with objects and there are so many things that can be done to help you,' Dr. Chabaud said.

Some of the adults say they were never taught how to make a bed and still have trouble with decision making.

For more call Dr. Chabaud at 504-915-9590 or go to her website at www.ocdigno.com or to the national site at www.childrenofhoarders.com

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