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Hoarding: a physically threatening type of OCD


Hoarding is the excessive collection of things combined with an inability to discard them.

It’s a dangerous mental health condition that creates an unsanitary condition endangering physical health. Cluttered spaces and obsessive behavior can make normal living almost impossible. Many people don’t understand that hoarding is a symptom or condition of obsessive-compulsive disorder and don’t seek treatment. Denial and shame are also key parts of the disorder.

“What we are talking about is an anxiety disorder. People decrease levels of anxiety by hoarding,” said Dr. Amy Austin, addiction specialist. The first thing Austin discusses with a patient who hoards is relationships:

“If they need a psychiatrist, we can work with one for possible medications. Treating an obsessive-compulsive disorder is commonly a combination of therapy and medication.”

People want to change but often backslide

Cory Chalmers, owner of Steri-Clean, featured in ‘Hoarders” reality show explains that on the show, people are ready to change. The people in the show may have OCD, but they are working through it and have some success with treatment. “At the end of the day, we have to remove the Dumpster (with all the hoarded items) or the next day we will find that people have taken everything out again.” Even successful cases can backslide.

Leslie Spoor is a professional organizer who occasionally gets a call to help a hoarder clean out. “People call thinking they want it done but it can be very difficult. We usually end up doing a tiny little bit at a time to give them a chance to adjust to the idea of throwing things away. You have to slow yourself way down and be very gentle with the process.”

Every case of OCD recovers at a unique pace. But almost always intervention is necessary and a strategy developed with the help of a health care provider is necessary.

Source: mydesert.com, A&E

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