Hoarding, also known as compulsive hoarding disorder or pathological hoarding is a problem in which the sufferer accumulates an excessive amount of clutter in their home to the extent that sections of their homes are no longer functional for their original purpose. This condition poses different hazards to the sufferer such as fire hazard and health hazard.
Unfortunately, the hoarder never even seems to realise they have a problem that requires medical intervention or treatment. It tends to be a loved one or some other person likes an unhappy landlord threatening eviction that may eventually cause the hoarder to seek or consider getting help. For this reason, results may be difficult to achieve. The hoarder has to be able to see that he has a problem that needs sorting out and must be willing to put in the effort in receiving treatment for any progress to be made.
Compulsive hoarding falls under the umbrella called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). As a result, practitioners have tried applying the same types of treatment that have been found to be effective in treating other OCD cases to helping the compulsive hoarder. This has however produced little or no result – interventions such as administering medication.
To date, the best kind of treatment available to the hoarder is cognitive-behavioural therapy. This type of treatment aims to change the way the hoarder thinks, which is based on many wrong ideas or views. All these preconceived ideas have to be dismantled one after the other. This type of treatment is a form of counselling that offers a hands-on approach in dealing with the problem. Usually set in the patient’s home, the therapy is conducted on a one-on-one basis.
During treatment sessions, the compulsive hoarder is guided in making decisions and thinking clearly about their belongings. People with compulsive hoarding traits usually have problems processing information such as deciding which of their possessions they should keep and which are not valuable and should be thrown away. The practitioner helps the patient to confront their fears to help them feel less fearful. They are also exposed to healthier ways of coping with stressful situations. In addition, with cognitive-behavioural therapy they will become more aware of the way they think in critical situations and then learn how to change their thinking.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is unique in its approach in that the therapist takes the hoarder right back to the heart of the clutter to confront and deal with the situations. They focus on teaching the person how to feel less anxious and stressful rather than on why they feel anxious and stressed about their properties.
The treatment usually takes the form of weekly or fortnightly sessions. These are designed to be brief individual sessions that aim to achieve specific goals each time. Overall, treatments based on cognitive-behavioural therapy tend to take longer and the beneficial effects observed also tend to be longer lasting. Although, more studies on this form of treatment would be beneficial in understanding its effects on the patient, no side effects have so far been recorded.
Usually, the hoarder has a difficult time facing their problems because they don’t know they have one in the first place. It is therefore important that treatment is handled correctly; otherwise there will be the tendency to revert back to their hoarding ways.
Kay Lawson is a compulsive hoarding expert. For more great information on treatment for hoarding, visit http://www.thehoardingbehaviors.com.