Hoarding in 2019

Hoarding in 2019

depressed person

The new year started out with a momentum for all things new. Individuals who experience hoarding may have also started off the new year with plans to gain control over their space and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Hoarding disorder (HD), affects an estimated 2% to 5% of the general population (Psychiatric Times).

Hoarding behavior is identified in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) (300.3) as:

  1. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions regardless of their actual value.
  2. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and the distress associated with discarding them.
  3. The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromise their intended use. If living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities).
  4. The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others. (DSM5)

Hoarding has been known to be the result of a trauma such as a divorce, loss of a loved one or sexual abuse. Hoarding shows up in different ways with individuals, hoarding shows up through animal hoarding, paper hoarding, food hoarding, shopping hoarding and collecting items due to the loss of an individual’s home through fire or devastation.

Symptoms may include but are not limited to collecting papers, newspapers, mail etc., and having difficulty throwing away these items along with the hoarder’s possessions may have meaning to the hoarder, making separation from the item difficult and without anxiety. Some individuals are aware of their condition of hoarding, and others may not be unaware of the severity surrounding their hoarding. Hoarding eventually affects an individual’s functioning on a regular basis, because hoarders have poor insight into their problem and often do not understand the severity of the illness (Psychiatric Times).

The challenge many individuals experience with hoarding is they often do not see the problem and struggle with relinquishing control to receive help. Receiving help can be a challenge in itself due to other possible issues surrounding their Obsessive-Compulsive behavior. Individuals struggle with repetitive steps, handwashing, collecting animals or specific items.

Hoarding usually starts early or late in life, hoarding can be triggered by a trauma such as abuse, divorce or death of a loved one.

All too often individuals diagnosed with a hoarding disorder seek help as the disorder progressively becomes more challenging to cope with. As the hoarding becomes more challenging, children and family members become affected systemically through the hoarding of the family member. Children often take on the role as the caretaker while sacrificing their childhood to function in the chaos. Older adults who have memory loss, mental confusion and impaired judgement usually experience symptoms of hoarding, these symptoms become diagnosed with dementia and other cognitive aging diseases.

The new year has taken off with new interventions on organizing.

Treatment and Interventions

There are many individuals who have come forward and shared their idea of clutter clean-up for the individual who struggles with hoarding or clutter in their home.

One of the latest individuals to who states she has a formula for the resolve of clutter is Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and author. Mari Kondo has taken the world by surprise by introducing her method of clutter clean up KonMari. The KonMari method is a method where by collecting together all of your belongings, and then keeping only those that “speak joy” and choosing a place or drawer to place clothing or items.

Some individuals believe this method intensifies or make worse a hoarder’s Obsessive-Compulsive disorder.

Individuals who experience hoarding get treatment through psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and sometimes alternative treatments such as hypnotherapy. It is important to be patient and understand any small progress toward treatment and clean-up is a triumph over their illness.

When seeking treatment for hoarders it is important to use individuals who understand the process. If possible, use teams that are trained to work with hoarders in some cases trained individuals will assist with preparing a team that may consist of social workers, fire departments, Adult protective services, conservators and estate planners (Hoarding Basics). The process for the hoarder is slow and detailed, requiring a therapist with patience and an understanding of the hoarding behavior. Helping a family member seek help, enforces the chance of success as the hoarding family member will feel the support from family. Patience as a family member or care taker is profound, any negative response can set back the family member in their treatment for hoarding. New interventions coupled with Cognitive therapy have proven to be successful and promising for individuals experiencing hoarding.

Kimberly Bailey, MBA, MS, AMFT

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

Matthew Bruhin and Associates




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Thank you so much! This post was so informative! I have been through a recent divorce and hoarding was my coping strategy. This helped me to understand possible reasons why people hoard. Thank you again for sharing this. I needed to read this!

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