Hoarding is Real and Serious

Hoarding is Real and Serious

Ever heard of the term hoarding? According to Randy Frost and Tam Hartl, “Compulsive hoarding has been defined as the excessive collection and failure to discard objects of apparently little value, leading to clutter, distress, and disability” (Pertusa et al., 2010). Hoarding is associated with several mental illnesses and is found to be a symptom of these disorders. The DSM-IV-TR, a published manual that recognizes all mental health disorders, and ICD-10, a medical classification for diseases, abnormal findings, signs and symptoms, and causes of injuries, mention hoarding quite extensively (Drimmelen-Krabbe, 2004). Although it is not mentioned as a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in DSM-IV-TR or in ICD-10, hoarding is listed as one of the 8 criteria for Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, according to Alberto Pertusa’s research (Pertusa et al., 2010).

Compulsive hoarding is prevalently shown in the media especially in television shows such as Hoarders, which was televised on Lifetime. The episodes showcased the stigma related with OCD by discussing the reasons as to why their mental illness came about (A&E Premieres, 2009). After introducing their behaviors, the subjects met with psychiatrists and established a treatment, which often involved getting a cleanup crew to remove whatever the hoarders had accumulated. According to A&E, the treatments not only included a cleanup crew but also involved family, friends, and other support systems. which showed that OCD cannot be resolved by containing a mess or cleaning it up. It involved excessive rehabilitation and therapy that could last several months to years. They introduce hoarders to innovative ways of thinking and discrete patterns of behavior in order to make the home a livable and usable space. Extreme cases not only involved intervention but also threats of eviction or the removal of minor children from the home (A&E Premieres, 2009).

Hoarding has undergone several reclassifications because its behavioral and psychological effect is so impactful. Not only is hoarding associated with obsessive and compulsive behaviors, it also has connections to Major Depressive Disorder as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Hall et al., 2013). Because hoarding is classified under numerous disorders, treatment includes the attempt to eliminate all the prevalent illnesses. However, treatment does not necessarily eliminate hoarding behaviors. Another significant factor in reclassifying hoarding was the detection that more people could be diagnosed with hoarding behaviors than OCD. This seems to imply  that hoarding might not be a subtype of OCD but instead its own illness with similar symptoms and patterns (Hall et al., 2013). According to Brian Hall, These disorders include Body Dysmorphic DisorderTrichotillomania, and Excoriation in which symptoms such as “obsessive preoccupation and repetitive behaviors” are significantly amplified.


“A&E Premieres New Original Nonfiction Series “Hoarders“. The Futon Critic. August 11, 2009. http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news/2009/08/11/a-and-e-premieres-new-original-nonfiction-series-hoarders-32342/20090811aande01/

Drimmelen-Krabbe, J. (n.d.). WHO ICD-10 Evaluation and evolution: ICD-10 Training courses. European Psychiatry. http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/ICD-10_2nd_ed_volume2.pdf

Hall, Brian; Tolin, David; Frost, Randy; Steketee, Gail (2013). “An exploration of comorbid symptoms and clinical correlates of clinically significant hoarding symptoms“. Depression and Anxiety 30: 67–76. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23213052

Pertusa, A., Frost, R., & Mataix-Cols, D. (n.d.). When hoarding is a symptom of OCD: A case series and implications for DSM-V. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0005796710001464/1-s2.0-S0005796710001464-main.pdf?_tid=cbb14686-80e4-11e5-ad6e-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1446415766_fa97fb7ce067b92b992347327c9d98d5

Sharmila Dass

My focus is to relate the social aspects of medicine to the everyday treatment of patients as physicians. I hope to learn about the underlying roots of illnesses with a stigma and raise awareness to these issues. Mental health is a prevalent issue in society and can be seen as "nonexistent" to some, especially in the South Asian community. I have witnessed depression in a few family members and close friends and want to learn as much as possible to help not only them, but others in the future. When I am not in class or studying, I love to dance and play tennis.

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