What Is Hoarding Disorder?

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Hoarding disorder is listed under the category of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders in the DSM-5. According to the APA or American Psychological Association, about 2-6% of the United States population alone lives with hoarding disorder. Despite the prevalence of the condition, it’s not often spoken about. So, you might wonder, what exactly is hoarding disorder? How is it diagnosed and treated?

What Is Hoarding Disorder?

Largely, hoarding disorder is exactly what it sounds like. Hoarding disorder is characterized by persistent trouble discarding or letting go of possessions, caused by distress at the idea of letting go of said items. It is not the same as collecting or having a collection, nor is it due to the real value of the items. To be diagnosed, hoarding behavior must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social functioning, functioning at work or school, or functioning in other notable areas of life such as maintaining a safe home environment. Roughly 80-90% of people living with hoarding disorder accumulate items they have no room for excessively. This is called “excessive acquisition.”

As a result, unless a loved one is to step in, a person’s living environment may become hazardous and even unlivable, with items blocking walkways and other important areas such as bathing areas and excessive accumulation of items taking over one’s home.

Hoarding disorder can impact a person’s life seriously. It can cause strain in interpersonal or familial relationships, become hazardous to one’s health and safety, make it difficult to complete daily tasks, and cause shame, guilt, and social isolation. The good news is that there is treatment for hoarding disorder and that, with help, symptoms can improve.

Diagnosis And Treatment

To be diagnosed with hoarding disorder or any other mental health condition, you must see a provider who is qualified to diagnose mental disorders, such as a psychiatrist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is often used to treat hoarding disorder and is one of the most common treatments for the disorder. If left untreated, hoarding disorder generally becomes increasingly severe over time, leading to an increase in safety hazards, greater accumulation of items, and higher levels of distress as time goes on. While no one is immune to developing hoarding disorder, risk factors include family history of hoarding disorder, trauma, or a brain injury.

Hoarding disorder is also said to be more common in older adults, though it can impact people of any age group. Many people with hoarding disorder have one or more comorbid or co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. If you’re living with hoarding disorder or think that you might be living with hoarding disorder, it’s imperative to reach out to a medical or mental health professional. You may start with your general doctor, or you may reach out to a psychiatrist or therapist first. Loved ones of those with hoarding disorder may also find it beneficial to seek support.

Find A Therapist

Whether you’re looking for support regarding symptoms of a mental health condition, interpersonal relationships, grief, familial issues, life stressors, life transitions, or something else that’s on your mind, a therapist can help. There are a number of ways to find a therapist. You can ask your primary care physician for a referral, contact your insurance company or visit their website to see who they cover, utilize community resources, search the web, or use a website like Mind Diagnostics that can help you find a provider near you.

All you have to do is type in your zip code, and you’ll see a range of providers with various specialties. On the Mind Diagnostics website, there are also free online tests and blog posts about hoarding disorder and other mental health concerns, including: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/blog/hoarding-disorder. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to get the support that you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step and reach out today.

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