Is Hoarding a Brain Condition?

News Sentinel, April 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Is Hoarding a Brain Condition?


Forty seven years ago, as a young college student, I visited the home of a new friend for the first time. I was surprised when I found that almost every bit of space in his house was occupied by old newspapers, except for a single trail-like passage for one person to walk through, one at a time. I even remember that he made a joke that he had once accidently found a grand piano in one room.

Hoarding behavior is not new, though recent television coverage has introduced it to a new generation.

The new fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual notes that an individual's persistent difficulty with discarding possessions is due to the distress with discarding the items, which then clutters and congests active living areas. Hoarding produces stress or impairment in many areas of the person's life.

Hoarding behavior looks as though it is obsessive-compulsive behavior to many, but this has not been found to be true. Hoarding Disorder can only be diagnosed when it is not better explained by another mental disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How does the person with a Hoarding Disorder view the world? They have difficulty easily putting items into categories, so they allow items to accumulate everywhere. They have severe intrusive thoughts about discarding an item and may have poor insight or even delusional beliefs about their irrational thoughts. Because they don't seem to exhibit the anxiety of the obsessive-compulsive, they do not respond well to medications, such as anti-depressants, that help that disorder. As of yet, n 'cure' been found for Hording Disorder.

Psychologists have used neuropsychological testing to evaluate individuals with hoarding behaviors. One such research study, in 2010, examined 65 adults with clinical interviews, self-report measures and neuropsychological tests. Those results showed that the hoarding individuals exhibited poorer ability to sustain their attention. Executive functioning abilities were not found to be impaired.

Other psychologists have found that hoarders are severely affected by their emotional responses to their possessions. …

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