Long considered to be part of ‘OCD’ is the inability to discard useless or worn out possessions, commonly referred to as hoarding.
In the past it was suggested that hoarding, as a subtype of OCD, may be less responsive to treatment than other forms. However, as a result of more recent research, and due to a greater understanding of this problem, there is now significant evidence to suggest that treatment can be just as effective for this type of OCD, as with others.
Hoarding is a complex form of OCD where a person has three main problems:
They have difficulty in discarding items.
They buy, save or collect anything and everything and are unable to throw anything away, even when space is running out.
They have problems with organisation of items.
These problems often culminate in the hoarder living in a small area of a room, with the rest taken over by the saved or difficult to discard items.
There is believed to be three categories of hoarding:
'Prevention of harm' hoarding – Prevention of bad things happening, common to other forms of OCD, where a person will fear that harm will occur if they throw things away. For example dustmen will be injured by sharp edges of discarded cans or glass objects, or that someone may be contaminated from a discarded item.
'Deprivation hoarding' – Where a person feels that they may need the object later, sometimes because of previous experience of deprivation. For example just after the Second World War many people across Europe had nothing, and so everything became valuable and reusable.
'Emotional' Hoarding – For some people hoarding becomes emotional, where perhaps, because of past traumatic experiences with people, they believe objects hold a special emotional significance. For example where a loved teddy bear can be trusted more than people, a person will develop relationships with objects rather than people.
Attempts at re-organising usually result in hours of moving objects from one place to another within the house, or even within a room, without any effective result, so it becomes physically and emotionally draining to the sufferer. Often people who hoard are unable to make progress without help and support through treatment. Hoarding can also pose significant health and safety risks, and can result in significant distress and/or impairment in day-to-day living.
Tips and suggestions for Hoarders
- Throw things away straightaway without checking.
- Throw things away at times the refuse collectors are coming.
- Get help sorting.
- Get a paper shredder.
- If you cant remember the reason why you have it, get rid of it.
- Buy things in limited quantities.
- Stop junk mail, newspapers etc.
- Set reasonable targets.
- Carers and family members should change the subject when the sufferer gets angry.