Compulsive Hoarding (Pathological Collecting)
It is predicted that, during its publication in 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the book that contains all officially recognised disorders) will include 'Hoarding Disorder'. This will finally give this disorder recognition within Mental Health; hopefully this will then mean that the World Health Organisation will follow suit by listing Hoarding Disorder in its 2015 publication.
This would be a massive step forward in recognising and helping those who suffer. Hoarding Disorder affects up to 3 million people within the UK alone.
So what is Hoarding Disorder?
The easiest way to describe Hoarding Disorder is this; people don't simply collect items. They collect and hoard them believing that they can someday be used again, or that they are of some value. Some people collect items that are personal to them and then hoard them.
The hoarding becomes unmanageable and the person's home becomes filled with these possessions, and more often than not the home becomes inhabitable to other members of the person's family. Yet the sufferer of Hoarding Disorder manages themselves to somehow live amongst the hoard.
In the instance that the home becomes over-cluttered it may be deemed as a clinical risk, especially if it acts as a hazard to normal day to day functioning in the household such as cooking, moving around the home, cleaning and visiting the bathroom. This can prove dangerous to all members of the household and outside intervention may be needed; local councils can become involved and, if the property is not the hoarder's own, risk of eviction can be a serious implication.
People who suffer from Hoarding Disorder can become unreasonable and detached from family members whilst being in denial of the problem their hoarding poses.
Hoarding was thought of in the same way as Obsessive Compulsive disorder, but people with OCD are often more generally aware of their problems whereas people with Hoarding Disorders more often than not aren't aware that there is a problem.
What do people hoard?
- Old Books, catalogues, newspapers and free flyers
- Things that might be useful for making crafts such as sewing machines, materials
- Duvets, quilt covers
- Clothes that "might" be worn one day even if they don't fit the Hoarder
- Broken things/trash such as old cans, plastic bags
- Things that were of interest to the hoarder that have now grown out of control
Hoarding disorder can be treated with Psychopharmacological Interventions such as anti-depressants and SSRI drugs. However Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may also be very successful in treating people. The therapist will help the patient to establish why they hoard find the starting point for the hoarding.
In order to help the patient the therapist will help to determine which items the patient is willing to consider parting with. Patients can be helped by the therapist using relaxation techniques, and when the patient is feeling more relaxed then the home can begin to be cleared slowly and at a pace that is right for the patient; gentle coaxing and patience are vitally important as parting with the hoard can be very distressing and upsetting for the patient. Once the home is cleared, periodic visits may be needed to ensure hoarding does not return.
So, who can help? Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, therapists such as fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists may be able to offer support; it is always best to check with governing bodies and GP practices for details of suitable therapists.
Group therapy can also be helpful, as the patient will be taken away from social isolation and mixed with others where they quite often may have had little or no social intervention. If the patient has family living with them, then family therapy can also be good for all concerned.
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