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HOW DID HOARDING BECOME A DISORDER?

The concept of hoarding has been around for nearly a century with roots in the psychoanalytical realm. Sigmund Freud characterized hoarding has part of the “anal” psychosexual stage of development. It was believed that being people with the anal personality were well on their way to developing OCD, hence the term “anal retentive personality.” Hoarding was considered a symptom of OCD, but then researchers and clinicians recognized they were different – for example hoarding did not respond as well to treatment as OCD. So experts decided to make hoarding its own disorder.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOMEONE BEING A HOARDER AND SOMEONE JUST NOT CLEANING THEIR HOUSE?

People with hoarding disorder form an extremely strong attachment to their possessions and experience terrible distress or grief at parting from them.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A HOARDER?

The most obvious sign is the extreme clutter in the home that causes social issues for the sufferer and makes their environment dangerous for themselves and others.  They may lose friends and family relationship, or become isolated because of the clutter.  Often their cars and office spaces are cluttered too.  Oftentimes people who hoard will not permit visitors out of fear of embarrassment or because they worry that others may touch or move their things.

FROM YOUR RESEARCH, WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON REASON WHY SOME PEOPLE ARE HOARDERS?

It seems that a main cause is genetics. Hoarding tends to run in families.

ARE THERE TREATMENTS AVAILABLE FOR HOARDERS?

Yes! Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective, and certain antidepressant medications can help as well.

 HOW IS HOARDING DIAGNOSED?

Hoarding is diagnosed when a person has trouble letting go of and throwing out items regardless of their actual value, distress at the thought of throwing something out, an accumulation of a large number of possessions that clutter up living areas in the home or work place, and the clutter causes life problems (clinically significant impairment).

WHERE CAN LISTENERS GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?

The International OCD Foundation.

AFTER SEEKING HELP, CAN THEY GO BACK TO HOARDING AGAIN?  

Yes, people have to stay on top of the treatment plan or they can relapse. I recommend ongoing check-ins with a therapist after treatment is complete.

WHY DO SOME HOARDERS RESIST TREATMENT?

People with hoarding disorder resist treatment because they love their things and don’t want to give them up. They often feel an emotional connection to the objects, believe it is morally wrong to “waste,” and think the items may be needed later.

WHAT TYPES OF QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK MY FAMILY MEMBERS OR RELATIVES IF I THINK THEY MAY HAVE A HOARDING DISORDER?

Ask if they would be willing to talk to someone about the impact of the clutter on their lives and the well-being of those around them.

Dr. Williams answers your ‘Text Tom’ questions on the next page. 

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