Every now and again there is a news story on hoarding. Pictures of collections that have gone pathological are especially disturbing when little pairs of eyes in cages are shown being carted away by animal control officers. The new DSM-5 has taken this phenomenon out of the OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosis) and defined its symptoms as being related to another form of neurobiology.
Studies are showing that nearly half of hoarders suffer from major depression. This makes sense when thinking about how difficult decision making can be for people experiencing depression. People with collections normally cull out items when they are running out of space or just to make their collections more organized. For those suffering from hoarding disorder, this process doesn’t happen and more and more items are added to the collection, negatively affecting quality of life and even safety.
Just throwing things out is not the cure for hoarding any more than just not drinking is the answer for recovery from alcoholism. In fact, cleaning out can backfire if this process makes a space to begin the rush of the cycle of acquiring all over again.
Cognitive behavioral interventions that re-direct the impulse to hoard are a part of a lasting solution. Addressing the effects of self-soothing and the “rush of acquiring” that are stimulated in the hoarding cycle are the beginning of treating this debilitating behavior. Like many troubling and dysfunctional human behaviors, hoarding is symptomatic of a deep feeling of emptiness, sometimes called a “hole in the soul.”