What Is Hoarding Disorder?

It has only been recently that hoarding has gotten more attention from the public. It has become such an issue that there is an official disorder. Hoarding disorder, also called compulsive hoarding, is a clinically identified health condition. It is defined by a build-up of possessions because of a struggle to let anything go regardless of the item’s value. It can become a destructive disorder that affects the individual and those around them.

Diagnosing Hoarding Disorder

The DSM-5 lists the different symptoms that can help diagnose if someone has a hoarding disorder. Some of these symptoms include continual difficulty letting go or parting with items despite the value of said items. They also may become incredibly distressed with the idea or act of getting rid of any of their possessions. Their living spaces may also become unsafe, and they cannot maintain safety in their dwellings.

Someone with a hoarding disorder may also have problems socially, in their career, and in daily functioning. In addition, there is a high chance that those with a hoarding cleanup problem will struggle with other disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, or an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Causes and Risks of Hoarding Disorder

Psychologists are not entirely clear on what causes someone to become a hoarder, and many factors can be considered when diagnosing. However, some common themes of hoarders are that many experiences a traumatic event in their lives that may lead to hoarding. Many also have family members who were hoarders, which can contribute to their behaviors.

The more severe cases of hoarding disorders are most common in middle-aged individuals, and the tendency to hoard things can become apparent in a person’s adolescent years. A hoarder may also be withdrawn socially and isolate themselves to the point where they find comfort in the possessions they hoard.

Treatments for Hoarding Disorder

As of right now, there is not a high percentage of those with hoarding disorder who are receiving help. When there is an intervention, it focuses on clearing out their items to create a safe space instead of treating the condition.

A good treatment for those with hoarding disorder would be cognitive-behavioral therapy. Here they can discuss it with a therapist and figure out why they feel the need to hoard their possessions. It can help them gain decision-making skills and learn how to organize their items to help them decide what to throw out.  

Other therapeutic approaches are motivational interviewing and harm reduction, which have been used in addiction therapy. They may also try group psychotherapy, which will reduce social isolation and anxiety.  It also can have similar effects to individual treatment.

Those with hoarding disorders tend to have less motivation and will drop out of therapies early on into treatment. That is why it is imperative to learn the possible cause of their disorder and get to its root. As soon as that happens, the sooner a therapist can recommend possible medication that will aid in the underlying cause of their hoarding disorder. Hence, they have a higher chance to improve their lives for the better.