University of California School of Medicine runs a comprehensive obsessive-compulsive disorders program. It singles out Hoarding Disorder as being excessive accumulation of clutter that renders living spaces uninhabitable.
This phenomenon can affect the health and safety of an extreme hoarder. It also affects those who live nearby. The School of Medicine’s paper insists the diagnosis must include:
- significant distress, and / or
- impairment in functioning as a result of their hoarding behaviour.
The past decade has seen many psychiatrists moving hoarding away from obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the San Diego definition appears to reinstate this link.
Defining the Extreme Fringes of Hoarding Disorder
Their extreme definition is useful in that it defines the extreme fringes of the condition. It also includes common types of functional impairment including:
1… Fire and health risks
2… Rodent and insect invasions
3… Loss of facilities for entertaining guests
4… Important possessions buried under clutter
5… Abandoned tasks, interpersonal conflict
6… No facilities to prepare food or eat
However, Not All Hoarding is Compulsive
University of California School of Medicine researchers believe that hoarding can be the outer sign of underlying neuro-psychiatric states. Possibilities include autism, dementia, eating disorders, psychotic disorders, and general mental deterioration.
However, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has the strongest link to the condition. Between 25% and 40% of those affected also hoard compulsively. Therefore, the School of Medicine reserves judgement on whether a dominant link exists between OCD and hoarding.
Behavioural Indications for Compulsive Hoarding
1… Preserving more items that could be used
2… Acquiring more items than are needed
3… Avoiding throwing surplus things away
4… Having difficulty making decisions
5… Avoiding storing things away properly
6… Slow or late in completing important tasks
A clinical diagnosis of compulsive hoarding may also embrace:
- an inability to decide
- problems organizing tasks
- delaying doing things
- avoiding taking actions
Compulsive Hoarding Is More Disabling than OCD
However, University of California School of Medicine does distinguish the two conditions in terms of the degree of disablement. It notes that compulsive hoarders typically display:
1… A greater degree of functional impairment
2… More disruptive social and family relationships
3… More severe depression and anxiety
4… Low awareness of the severity of their state
5… Typically older people when diagnosed.
Compulsive Hoarding Disorder As Experienced By Others
Friends and family members become increasingly exasperated as the symptoms become more extreme. Their loved one’s life becomes even more disrupted. They want to do something but their efforts are repulsed.
They may become angry because they are powerless. Eventually they may see only three solutions. These are:
- enforce a clear out
- move the hoarder to care
- walk away from the problem
If That Is You, Please Hold That Thought for a Moment
Your friend or family member is not going balmy. They have a neurological disorder and can be helped. Their condition can become less severe through professional cognitive behaviour therapy available at the NHS.
This treatment helps hoarders understand their condition. They learn to accept help from friends and family, and become less anxious about their disabling condition and this is a positive thing.