People with hoarding disorders tend to experience intense difficulty with getting rid of or parting ways with their belongings due to the strong feeling of needing to save them. However, just like with other disorders, this behavior leads to negative consequences. Apart from your day-to-day life being impacted by the disorder, your health and relationships tend to suffer greatly.
It is important to note that with a hoarding disorder, merely getting rid of the affected individual’s belongings never solves the problem, only hoarding-related treatment would be able to help.
How Is Hoarding Disorder Diagnosed?
Research has shown that people with a hoarding disorder rarely seek treatment for it. Interestingly, it is common for a person with a hoarding disorder to seek treatment for anxiety and depression instead.
On the other hand, not every behavior can be problematic hoarding. Therefore, in order to provide an accurate diagnosis for hoarding disorder, a mental health professional has to conduct a psychological evaluation on the affected person.
The professional asks questions related to your habits of getting and saving items, such questions then lead the professional to ask questions related to hoarding. It is also common for a mental health professional to ask permission to speak to your family and friends to gain additional relevant information. Visual representations of your personal living space are also of great help.
In addition to this, you may be asked questions about possible symptoms of other mental health disorders.
For an accurate diagnosis to be made, a mental health practitioner will likely use the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for hoarding disorder.
Please note that hoarding only becomes a problem when it affects the day-to-day lives of the affected individuals.
Symptoms of hoarding disorder
Did you know that compulsive hoarding is more than just the act of collecting stuff and refusing to get rid of it? Here are some common signs of hoarding that might help you determine if you or your loved one might have it.
- Keeping a number of items with no value and struggling to part with them
- Extreme cluttering within one's living space
- Impairment or distress in your personal, social, or work life
- Difficulty with being organized
- Difficulty making decisions
Causes of Hoarding
There are different reasons that can contribute to hoarding, and it might take years to turn into a disorder.
Did you know that hoarding is said to begin between the ages of 11 and 15?
Hoarding is also said to be more common in older adults than younger adults. Here we list some of the leading causes of the disorder:
- Personality. Studies have shown that most people who have a hoarding disorder struggle to make decisions. In the case of hoarding, they are presented with too many options that they are unable to choose from. Thus, this leads to acquiring more items than needed.
- Family history. Having a family member with a hoarding disorder increases your chances of getting one yourself.
- Stressful life events. Past traumas and stressful life events such as death, evictions, divorce, and the likes lead people to getting a hoarding disorder, as the act of getting new items and not parting with them serves as a coping mechanism.
Hoarding Disorder Treatment
Hoarding disorder treatment can be complicated. Prior studies have shown that treatment, particularly for hoarding disorders, has proven to be quite difficult to undertake. However, new types of cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) that exist today give a bit of hope in the treatment process.
In addition to therapy treatments, medication can also be used to treat the disorder. However, there is evidence that medication does not work for some. Here we offer more insight on hoarding and the treatment options available:
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is considered to be the primary treatment for hoarding disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for hoarding is the common form of psychotherapy used to treat the disorder. With this treatment, you may learn some or all of the following techniques:
- Identifying and challenging your preexisting thoughts and beliefs regarding collecting and saving items
- Proper organization and categorization skills which aid in deciding what items to keep and which to get rid of
- Improving your personal decision making and coping skills
- Decluttering your personal living space
- Improving your social life to avoid loneliness and isolation
- Learning ways that motivate change
Currently, there are no medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat hoarding disorder. Notably, medications are typically used to treat conditions and disorders such as depression and anxiety – the two occur along with a hoarding disorder. Thus, the medications that are used in the case of hoarding disorders are a specific type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is important to note that research is still ongoing in terms of finding the most suitable medication to treat hoarding disorder.
With the pandemic and face-to-face therapy sessions being brought to an abrupt halt, a lot of mental health specialists have opted to offer their services online for your convenience. Therefore, if you need to speak to someone and you are not comfortable with leaving home, online counseling would be the best option for you. Here we list some benefits:
- No travel costs involved
- Professional help, all you need is a laptop and internet
- Good option for remote areas
- Treatment is more approachable
- As effective as in-person sessions, in most cases
How to cope with hoarding disorder?
In addition to therapy, here we provide you with some useful tips on how to take care of yourself from the comfort of your own home:
- Stick to your treatment plan. The overall aim of treatment is to reduce your hoarding, improve your motivation, and help you feel better about yourself. Therefore, it is important to stick to your hoarding disorder treatment plan.
- Accept help. You are not alone, and seeking help from loved ones, professionals, and local resources to help you on your hoarding recovery journey is safe and healthy.
- Get out there. Hoarding leads to loneliness and isolation, which in turn leads to more hoarding. Therefore, interact more with others, and by doing so, you may realize that there are people who also struggle with hoarding.
- Eat well. Should you have a cluttered kitchen, begin by clearing it and start preparing healthy meals.
- Take care of yourself. Set goals and work on taking care of yourself and improving your life by decluttering it.
- Take small steps. With the help of a professional, you can take gradual steps to recovery.
Evidently, people who have a hoarding disorder often do not seek help for it. This then prolongs their healing process and further damages their lives and relationships with others. People often tend to neglect themselves, their nutrition, and the likes.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of hoarding or you think you may have a hoarding disorder, seeking help from a professional would be the best option for you.
Online therapy has numerous benefits, including comfort, affordability, and convenience. If face-to-face therapy is not an option for you, online therapy would be your best alternative, and we are here to help you on your healing journey.