Newly recognized as a disorder independent from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by the DSM-5, hoarding disorders are characterized by a persistent difficulty with parting with possessions, no matter how much value (or lack thereof) others attribute to the items. Though hoarding disorder shares some characteristics with OCD, the characteristics of hoarding disorder are still distinct from OCD and it is, therefore, a separate disorder. What sets individuals who hoard apart from healthy collectors is the amount of items an individual who hoards collects. Individuals who hoard accumulate so many possessions that active living areas in the home or workplace are difficult or impossible to navigate.

What Causes a Hoarding Disorder?

There are a variety of reasons why a person might begin hoarding. Some common causes for hoarding disorders are:

  • The individual feels that the items will be valuable in the future
  • The individual attaches sentimental value to the items
  • The individual feels that the items are unique or one-of-a-kind
  • The individual feels that the items were too big of a bargain to throw away
  • The individual believes that the items will jog their memory, and without them, he or she will forget an important person or event
  • The individual does not know where the items belong, so he or she decides to keep it

There has also been evidence that those with a family history of hoarding are more likely to hoard than those without, so genetics also plays a role in this disorder.

Treatment For Hoarding Disorders

The most common type of therapy for hoarding disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a treatment that explores the patterns of thought that lead to inappropriate responses. In this type of therapy, individuals who hoard will:

  • Explore why they feel compelled to hoard
  • Learn organizational tools, which will help rationalize which possessions to discard
  • Improve decision-making skills
  • Work through their home's clutter with their therapist and/or a professional organizer
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Have periodic visits to keep up healthy habits

Individuals who hoard might also attend group or family therapy for their disorder, and might have to consider psychiatric hospitalization for their disorder, depending on the level of severity. Individuals who hoard should attempt to find a therapist with experience treating individuals who hoard.

Medications for Hoarding Disorders

Research on which medications to administer for hoarding disorders is not as extensive as other anxiety disorders, like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have been shown to help in many cases of a hoarding disorder.

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Jennifer M. Park, Ph.D.
Mary E. Dozier, B.A.
Jill M. Hooley, D.Phil.


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