Today I present a guest post by Molly Nox. Molly is an aspiring grad student in Clinical Psychology, with a keen interest in Compulsive Hoarding.
The Connection Between OCD & Hoarding
Individuals who have a hard time throwing anything away may end up with a big mess on their
hands. Even though their quality of life is impacted, their spouses object, and their children are
embarrassed to have friends over, hoarders are still unable to part with their accumulations.
Hoarders often suffer from other mood and anxiety disorders, and their clutter often reaches a
point where psychiatric intervention and professional hoarding cleanup services need to be
called in order to begin recovery from Hoarding Disorder.
What Is the Link Between Hoarding and OCD?
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental challenge in which the sufferer exhibits some sort of
irrational, repeated behavior and cannot seem to stop him or herself. Historically, psychologists
classified hoarding solely as a symptom of OCD; recently, after the publication of the DSM-5,
Hoarding Disorder has been recognized as a separate disorder completely.
It is true that many people who have Hoarding Disorder also suffer from OCD, but the link is not
as concrete as once believed. Approximately 18% of people who have Hoarding Disorder also
have been diagnosed with OCD. While this is a significant number, it is worth noting that a
staggering 92% of people with Hoarding Disorder also suffer from other psychiatric conditions,
with over 50% having clinical depression. It appears that Hoarding Disorder is not as closely
linked to OCD as it is with other disorders such as depression and General Anxiety Disorder.
Another aspect in which Hoarding Disorder and OCD differ is their treatment. In the past, people
who exhibited hoarding symptoms were diagnosed with OCD and treated accordingly. We now
know that people with hoarding symptoms are very unlikely to respond to traditional OCD
treatment. Hoarding Disorder is notoriously difficult to treat, but interventions targeted
specifically toward hoarding symptoms show the most promising success rates.
Why Does a Person Become a Hoarder?
While there is no clear consensus on the cause of Hoarding Disorder, there are a handful of
contributing factors to consider:
- Genetics – Hoarding Disorder tends to run in families. Researchers have found patterns
in chromosome 14 that are unique to families with multiple hoarders.
- Trauma – Trauma often plays a significant part in the onset or expression of hoarding
behavior. This does not necessarily mean that trauma is a cause of Hoarding Disorder; it
is, however, considered a factor that can cause a “break” in a person who is already
- Biology – A recent study found that individuals with Hoarding Disorder experienced
frontal brain hypoactivity. This is a condition that leads to decreased dopamine levels in
the brain and is commonly associated with addiction. Frontal brain hypoactivity is not as
common in people diagnosed with PTSD though, which is further evidence that OCD and
Hoarding Disorder are very different indeed.
Why Call a Mental Health Professional?
Hoarding Disorder is a condition that goes untreated in a worrisome 80% of cases. Many
hoarders either do not think they need treatment or think treatment will not help them.
Treatments for Hoarding Disorder have improved drastically in recent years, but public
perception has not improved with it.
If the accumulation of excessive things is negatively affecting the hoarder’s quality of life and
relationships, then psychiatric evaluation is highly recommended. Therapy can begin the process
of helping a hoarder understand their compulsions and eventually live a clutter-free life. It can
be helpful to seek a therapist who specializes in helping patients who suffer from compulsive
hoarding and its related disorders. Additionally, enlisting in professional cleaning services to
clean up the entire site can help make their home inhabitable again.
Molly Nox is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She’s a California dreamer with a penchant for handwritten letters, the New York Times, and dark roast coffee. Follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.