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June 2010 - What is Hoarding?

REFERRAL CORNER: What is Hoarding?

The psychological problem of hoarding seems to be getting a lot of attention lately, with special episodes of Oprah and reality-TV shows devoted to the subject. But there are many examples of how the “info-tainment industry” often gets factual details wrong when aiming to create intriguing television.

People who simply hold onto their high school yearbooks and old telephone bills are not necessarily hoarders. As with many conditions, helping professionals apply the standard of functionality when determining this diagnosis. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic defines hoarding as the “excessive collection of items” plus the “inability to discard them.” While the current consensus is that hoarding is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), many hoarders do not present with other typical OCD traits. There is growing support for viewing hoarding as a separate psychological condition.

Many hoarders struggle with organizational skills, perfectionism, and report extreme attachments to their possessions. The made-for-TV treatment approaches – arguing with the client, creating family confrontations, forcing him or her to give put things in the trash – truly sensationalize this problem. Effective treatment is still be researched, but often includes medication and intensive psychotherapy to explore the meaning behind the behavior.

PC&CC counselors are always available to consult about this and other psychological issues. Please call 202-449-3789.

-Edited by Stacy Notaras Murphy

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