I recently completed a home study on Hoarding Disorder presented by Dr. Scott Hannan, a psychologist at Hartford Hospital in CT. He works closely with Dr. David Tolin, a well-known researcher in the field of hoarding disorder, and is experienced in diagnosing and treating this mental illness.
Many of us know the basic tenets of hoarding disorder:
- Difficulty discarding or parting with possessions regardless of their perceived value
- Strong urges to save items and distress associated with discarding
- Accumulation of a large number of possessions that make rooms in the home unable to be used for their intended purpose
But did you know that there's also impairment in areas including social and occupational functioning?
Dr. Hannan referenced a study in his presentation (Tolin, et al. 2007) in which diagnostic criteria for hoarding is also associated with many other factors. In the study, those diagnosed with hoarding disorder were also found to have the following:
- 6.7% on disability
- 78% reported obesity
- 45% in mental health treatment
- 8% had been evicted or threatened with eviction
- 0.1% had a child or elder removed from the home
- 5.5% lost jobs due to hoarding
- 75% reported losing things at work
- 22% had not paid taxes at least once in the last 5 years
It's clear that hoarding isn't just all about the stuff. There are so many other factors at play with individuals diagnosed with this disorder. Mental health treaters, professional organizers, and family members alike need to keep these clinically significant factors in mind as additional problems associated with hoarding behavior.
Hoarding is a complex mental illness that affects individuals on a number of levels. It's important when working with this population to have the proper knowledge and training to be able to handle the many facets of this disorder. It takes a combined effort of treating the head and the home to begin to recover from this mental illness.
The book Buried in Treasures is great for the lay person wanting to learn more about hoarding and what to do about it. The book The Hoarding Handbook is a helpful resource for human service professionals providing step-by-step ways that treaters can help.