A person with ‘compulsive hoarding disorder’ (hoarding disorder for short) acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. The items stored can be of little or no monetary value and may seem unnecessary of little practical use. Usually hoarding results in unmanagement amounts of clutter.
An important distinction between hoarding disorder and collecting is how the items are organised. A collection is usually well ordered and the items easily accessible. A hoard is usually disorganised, takes up a lot of room and the items are largely inaccessible.
Why hoarding disorders are a problem
Hoarding can make cleaning very difficult, leading to unhygienic conditions and pest infestations. It can also act as a fire risk as well as blocking exists in the event of a fire. If kept in large piles, hoards can collapse and cause injuries to people that way.
A hoarding disorder can take over a person’s life, making it difficult for them to get around their house. This has a knock-on effect on their efficiency, ability to socialise and general anxiety levels. Their performance at work, personal hygiene and relationships can suffer as a result.
Hoarding can be a sign of other underlying conditions including OCD, anxiety, depression and dementia. Because of this, antidepressant medicines called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help some people with hoarding disorders. However, these don’t work as a long-term solution or cure. Once the person stops taking the medication, they’re likely to return to their hoarding behaviours.
If you think someone you know has a hoarding disorder, encourage them to see a therapist. Note that this might not be easy. Treatment of hoarding disorder can be challenging because many people don’t recognise the negative impact of hoarding on their lives and may not believe they need treatment. Be sensitive and reassure them that nobody is going to go into their home and throw everything out. They’re just going to have a chat with a professional therapist about their hoarding to see what they can do and what support is available to empower them to begin the process of decluttering.
Treatment for hoarding disorder
Hoarding disorder isn’t easy to treat, even when the person is prepared to seek help, but it can be overcome.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common form of psychotherapy used to treat hoarding disorder. CBT is a type of therapy that aims to help you manage your problems by changing how you think (cognitive) and act (behaviour).
With this type of treatment, a therapist will help the person to understand what makes it difficult to throw things away and the reasons why the clutter has built up. Together the individual and the therapist can then identify any thought patterns which aren’t logical and explore alternative conclusions and thoughts which can be drawn instead. This is will be combined with practical tasks and exercises to work on which help the individual to spot when irrational thought cycles are occuring, acknowledge them but identify why they are irrational and then move on rather than act on the original thought.
To gain an understanding of how hoarding disorder is affecting your life, and to find out how to free yourself from it, see a psychotherapist. At Psytherapy we offer CBT, Psychoanalytic, Existential and Group Therapy for hoarding disorder.