Saturday March 9, 2013
Looking for clues among the mess
AN avid collector usually collects specific items which have a special meaning. These unique items are frequently attended to, admired and beautifully displayed. A hoarder, unlike avid collectors, accumulates items which he or she feels will be useful in future, but ends up not using them.
There is a lack of research on the hoarding behaviour but data compiled by the American Psychological Association indicates that hoarding is largely derived from impaired decision-making or indecisiveness. Hoarding is currently considered a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder.
“Research suggests that depression may relate to the consequences of hoarding behaviour but not its core features which include the acquisition of a large number of possessions, the failure to discard a large number of possessions, and living in spaces that are sufficiently cluttered as to preclude their intended use. But in some research, neurocognitive symptoms such as inattentiveness has been shown to contribute to hoarding,” says clinical psychologist Low Mi Yen.
Other researchers have found that some individuals reported that their hoarding behaviour developed as a result of a traumatic event, such as a break-in. A history of victimisation may also contribute to paranoid beliefs about possession security.
Low says hoarding is twice as common in men, and almost three times as common in people over the age of 55. Indecisiveness is often associated with the onset of hoarding symptoms.
It is hard to convince a hoarder about his behaviour and its impact unless a spouse or family member is able to convince them to address this behaviour. Low says hoarders can be treated if they acknowledge their problem.
Low explains: “Clinicians will usually consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which addresses the hoarder’s behavioural avoidance and decision-making. Positive decision-making skills are important for effective treatment.
“The family of the hoarder needs to be assessed, too, because a spouse may have developed characteristics that reinforce the behaviour of the hoarder. Out of love, the spouse tolerates the hoarding behaviour. Thus family counselling is a very beneficial approach to treatment.”