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By now you likely have seen an episode of A&E’s show Hoarders, which delves into the lives of people who live in absolute clutter and are unable to part with any of their belongings.
Called hoarding disorder, the condition is more than just not being able throw out old magazines, papers, clothes, furniture or other belongings, it is a serious mental illness that needs proper diagnosis and treatment.
For years, hoarding disorder was regarded as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in the DSM-IV, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association formally referred to as “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” The next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called the DSM-5, is expected to be published in May of 2013. In this new, updated version, hoarding disorder will be listed as a separate, distinct mental disorder.
Signs and Symptoms
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder include:
- • Incapability of throwing away personal possessions
- • Experiencing severe anxiety when trying to throw away items; unsure about what possession to keep or discard
- • Unable to, or have an extremely hard time, organizing possessions and/or finding appropriate places to store them
- • Experiencing feelings of distress or embarrassment over possessions
- • Suspicious of other people touching items and/or throwing them out
The lack of being able to get rid of items causes a lack of living space; isolation from family, friends and social activities; financial difficulties and/or health issues stemming from the hoarding.
It’s important to see a healthcare professional in order to get a proper diagnosis of hoarding disorder so that an effective treatment plan can be devised. Treatment for hoarding disorder can include a combination of medication and behavior therapy such as cognitive-behavioral or exposure therapy.
Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
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