Compulsive hoarding is by no means a new phenomenon. However, it has recently moved into the spotlight courtesy of several documentaries and television shows such as A&E’s “Hoarders” and TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”
The exposure compulsive hoarding has gained as a result has been an eye-opener to many hoarders as well as to those around them. It has brought awareness to the fact that treatment is available to help people begin to unclutter their lives.
The Characteristics of a Hoarder
Compulsive hoarding affects roughly two million Americans, according to Psychology Today Magazine. Although it is argued in some circles that hoarding is a stand-alone disorder, it is most often placed within the category of obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD).
Generally, hoarders fear that throwing anything away will have negative repercussions on their lives. As a result, they collect and accumulate things that might have little or no real use.
Although the scene inside their dwelling might appear chaotic to others, many hoarders feel hanging onto items provides them with a certain amount of control and sense of organization. Hoarders feel a personal responsibility and connection to their possessions. If an item is lost or discarded, the fragile balance in their lives can be disrupted.
In treating compulsive hoarding, mental health professionals use an approach similar to that of OCD treatment. The foundation of treatment focuses on a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Specifically, behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) are employed.
Some of the goals within behavioral therapy include diminishing the hoarder’s urge to save, and redirecting the distorted view of the importance they place on the items in question. Therapy also helps at decreasing a hoarder’s anxiety over discarding items and improving their judgment and decision-making capabilities.
Mental health centers across the country are home to experienced professionals who have successfully treated compulsive hoarders. Though treatment can be lengthy and at times difficult, it can provide a new lease on life for those struggling with this all-consuming disorder.