Hoarding is defined as the excessive collection of items (often with little to no value) and the inability to discard them. If you’ve ever seen one of the many reality TV shows about hoarders, you may be surprised to hear that the condition wasn’t always recognized as its own distinct mental health disorder. With its sufferers living in perilously overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions, the devastating effects of hoarding and the clear lack of control its sufferers face are evident. But the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) – a text used by all mental health professionals to diagnose and treat their patients – had only described hoarding as a type of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
However, mental health professionals observed over the past 20 years that hoarders and patients with OCD don’t share the same traits and didn’t seem to belong to the same diagnostic group. Brain imaging scans also showed major differences between the two. So, in order to more accurately diagnose and treat hoarding disorder, the upcoming fifth edition of the DSM – the DSM-5 – now categorizes hoarding as a disorder distinct from OCD.
Besides bringing more awareness to hoarding as a neuropsychiatric condition that requires treatment, researchers also believe this new classification will have the following beneficial effects:
- The stigma associated with hoarding will decrease as people learn that it’s not a social problem or laziness, but a serious mental health condition.
- Doctors will screen for it more often, and know what to look for.
- Detection, diagnosis and treatment of hoarding will increase.
- Expert knowledge of the condition will improve, thus improving the treatment.
- The mental health and pharmaceutical communities will become more interested in the disorder, leading to more research and clinical trials.
- For those patients whose insurance plans cover mental health, treatment for hoarding will now be covered.
Has hoarding affected you or a loved one? Tell us about it below.
Sources: yahoo.com and mayoclinic.com