We’ve all heard of people who can’t seem to throw away any of their possessions and let them pile up to extreme levels. But this type of behavior shouldn’t be written off as due to mere messiness: Hoarding is a clinical disorder that affects 6-15 million Americans. In a recent Q&A, BeWell@Stanford spoke with Carolyn Rodriguez, MD, PhD, an expert on compulsive behaviors, about hoarding and what goes on behind the scenes:
A person with a hoarding disorder has extreme difficulty parting with possessions, so much so that the amount of clutter in their home limits the use of living spaces… The main way to distinguish “hoarding” from “collecting” is that collecting is a pleasurable activity, while individuals with hoarding disorder are distressed by it.
Rodriguez also discusses the causes for hoarding disorder, when it begins, and how it progresses over time:
We do know that hoarding disorder runs in families, and that it is more common in people who have a family member who suffers from hoarding disorder.
Symptoms in both adolescents and adults include: difficulty letting go of things, clutter that makes life difficult, spending considerable time moving items from one pile to another without letting go, spending time collecting free things, and sleeping with items on their beds.
As Rodriguez goes on to explain, there is hope for sufferers:
There are many different treatment options, from reading self-help books or joining a support group to individual talk therapy or medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can be done on an individual basis or in groups, has also proven effective.
Previously: Study: Major psychiatric disorders share common deficits in brain’s executive-function network, Studying the genetic architecture of OCD and Tourette’s syndrome and Study validates oxytocin levels in blood and suggests oxytocin may be a biomarker of anxiety
Photo by Kevin Utting