Diogenes Syndrome

Diogenes syndrome is also known as Senile Squalor Syndrome, Havisham's syndrome or Plyushkin's syndrome. It is a behavioural disorder usually observed in the elderly, characterized by extreme self-neglect, untidiness, domestic squalor, social withdrawal, apathy, compulsive hoarding of garbagegross self-neglect, lack of self-consciousness about personal habits, untidiness, compulsive hoarding of rubbish and a lack of shame[1].

The disorder is further accompanied by a self-imposed isolation and the refusal of external help. The person is often aloof, suspicious, emotionally labile, aggressive, group dependent, and reality distorting. Persons from all social groups can suffer from this condition. 46% of patients have a five year mortality rate. The Diogenes Syndrome is possibly the result of progressing dementia[2].
The name of the syndrome derives from Diogenes of Sinope, an ancient Greek philosopher, a Cynic and an ultimate minimalist, who allegedly lived in a large jar in Athens. The designation Diogenes syndrome does not really fit the symptoms of the disorder, because Diogenes did not hoard and he actually sought human company by venturing daily to the Agora (the city center). Therefore, this eponym is considered to be a misnomer.

The alternative names for the syndrome, Havisham Syndrome and Plyushkin's Syndrome, seem better suited. Havisham Syndrome is named for Miss Havisham, a figure in Charles Dickens' (1812-1870) Great Expectations, while Plyushkin's Syndrome is named for Plyushkin, Russian aristocrat in Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol's (1809-1852) novel Dead Souls.

[1] Clark et al: The Diogenes syndrome. A clinical study of gross neglect in old age in The Lancet - 1975
[2] Cipriani et al: Diogenes syndrome in patients suffering from dementia in Dialogues in clinical neuroscience - 2012

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