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What Help is Available for Hoarders?

written by: Kelly Marquize • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/10/2011

Hoarding is a serious disorder that literally can consume a person's life. Feelings of shame and alienation can cause the hoarder to isolate themselves and continue on a downward spiral. Hoarding help is available and in this article we will explore the options.

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    Hoarding can be a difficult condition to treat, but hoarding help is available. Many times the hoarder becomes so attached to their possessions that they are unwilling to part with them. To the hoarder, these possessions hold special meaning and perhaps remind them of a time when they were happy. To the family and/or friends of a hoarder, it may be difficult to understand why they just cannot let go of their material possessions.

    It may be tempting to think that the hoarder is just lazy and that if they really wanted to part with their possessions, they could. It is much more complicated than that. Hoarding is a coping mechanism that one uses in order to relieve stress, anxiety, loneliness, and an array of other emotions. Fortunately, there is help for the compulsive hoarder and their loved ones. So, what help is available for hoarders? Let’s take a look.

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    Treatment Options for Hoarders

    • Psychotherapy: therapy can, and should be, an intricate part of treatment. Therapy will include exploring why the client has the compulsion to hoard, organizational skills, decluttering the home, relaxation techniques, group sessions, occasional check-ups with the therapist, and treatment at an institution if necessary (Mayo Clinic, 2009). Teaching the client how to respond to emotions and situations differently will equip them to change their behaviors in the future.
    • Medication: the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) can be beneficial in treatment and is often combined with psychotherapy. These medications have the ability to alter the neurotransmitters in the brain and bring balance, leading to fewer symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety that may be the root cause of hoarding. Success is limited though as these medications typically work only if the client also has OCD.
    • Support Groups: a strong support system is essential to successful treatment. Being able to reach out to others that can sincerely sympathize with the client may be the very thing that saves them from relapsing. Accountability may also play a part in keeping the client from hoarding.
    • Self-help: this method only applies if the hoarder realizes their condition and wants to make a change. There are a number of books that have been written on the subject and can be very helpful in helping the hoarder to understand why they do what they do and how to stop. Self-help techniques take dedication and a strong desire for change.
    • Intervention: if you have seen the show Hoarders on A&E, then you are familiar with intervention. Intervention is an extreme method that is instigated by family or friends of a hoarder. This can be a very sensitive issue and should be approached with a professional therapist and with the knowledge and consent of the hoarder (Compulsive Hoarding, 2010). While this method can jumpstart the treatment, it is up to the client to continue with counseling once the clutter has been removed; without a commitment, the client will most likely revert back to hoarding.
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    Prognosis

    When exploring what help is available for hoarders, you will see that there is a growing number of support groups and organizations that cater specifically to hoarding. The medical community now realizes the importance of treatment options for hoarders. Until now, hoarding was classified as a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); however, the newly updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) has given hoarding its own category. This is good news as this will open the door for hoarding help with newer and more relevant treatment options.

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    References

    Compulsive Hoarding (2010). Treatment options for compulsive hoarding. Retrieved January 5, 2011, from http://www.compulsive-hoarding.org/Treatment-options.html

    Mayo Clinic (2009). Hoarding: Treatments and drugs. Retrieved January 5, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hoarding/DS00966/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs