Compulsive Hoarding and 6 Tips to Help

Are your fingers itching to keep things in your house that you never use? Here are 6 tips to help declutter!

Stack of books

It’s been awhile since I covered the topic of compulsive hoarding, because the last time I did I posted photos of my nut collection and book pile, and the next thing I know I was contacted by Discovery Disney to be fixed on some hoarding special show. Seems like that’s kind of a pattern, now that I think about it. I go public with my stuff … I get invited onto shows!

Well, anyway, I was reading an article in the Fall 2007 issue of The Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin — an interview with Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H, Director of the Johns Hopkins Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic and Jack Samuels, Ph.D., an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. Wow. That’s a lot of school.

I found out that, even though most folks lump compulsive hoarding into the same illness umbrella as obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarders actually have different brains. The brain-imaging research shows that people with compulsive hoarding have distinct abnormalities in brain function compared to people with non-hoarding OCD and those with no psychiatric problem.

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According to Dr. Samuels: “What causes those brain abnormalities (besides genetics) is still not clear, but compulsive hoarding can begin after damage from stroke, surgery, injuries, or infections. In addition, psychology and environmental factors (e.g. traumatic family experiences) appear to contribute to abnormal brain development and function.”

Samuels says that hoarding belongs to a syndrome which also includes: Indecisiveness Perfectionism Procrastination Avoidance behaviors Difficulty organizing tasks.

And here are some interesting stats: hoarding obsessions and compulsions are present in approximately 30 percent of OCD cases. However, as a group, says Samuels, OCD-affected individuals with hoarding symptoms have a more severe illness, a greater prevalence of anxiety disorders, and a greater prevalence of personality disorders than people with OCD who don’t have hoarding symptoms. Hoarders are often less responsive to treatment than non-hoarding OCD patients.

Dr. Nestadt offers six anti-clutter strategies for compulsive hoarders:

1. Make immediate decisions about mail and newspapers. Go through mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and throw away unwanted materials immediately. Don’t leave anything to be decided on later.

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Related Topics: Emotional Health, Hoarding

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