How to Help a Hoarder: The Signs & Strategies - MedCircle

How to Help a Hoarder: The Signs & Strategies

  • Hoarders: There Are Millions in the U.S. When Does It Become an Issue?

Premium Members Only
  • 1
    Hoarding 101: How to Tell When It’s More Than Being Cluttered
  • 2
    Why Do People Hoard? (Causes + Risk Factors)
  • 3
    How to Spot the Hidden Signs of Hoarding Disorder
  • 4
    How to Convince a Hoarder to See a Professional
  • 5
    These Are the Steps to Diagnosing Hoarding Disorder
  • 6
    The 6 Steps of Hoarding Disorder Treatment (& How to Find the Right Doctor)
  • 7
    The 3 Signs a Hoarder Has Recovered (& How to Prevent Relapse)

Dr. Jenny YipLink forward arrow

Hoarding is a very serious mental disorder for 14 million people.

Hoarding is described as a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. The Mayo Clinic defines a hoarding disorder this way- "A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”*

In this groundbreaking new series on MedCircle, Dr. Yip, licensed clinical psychologist, will break down the basics of this disorder. In the past, hoarding was usually associated with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-5) now makes a distinction between forms of hoarding associated with the obsession and compulsions of OCD and a separate disorder -hoarding.

You may be surprised to hear that hoarding affects twice the number of Americans than those who suffer from OCD. When severe hoarding occurs along with other typical symptoms of OCD, but is deemed to be separate from OCD symptoms, a diagnosis of both OCD and Hoarding Disorder may be made. Make sure to view Dr. Yip’s series on MedCircle, entitled, "Freedom From OCD.” This series will help you to recognize the signs of compulsive hoarding and strategies to help you help a friend or loved one. This series will teach you the signs of compulsive hoarding and the strategies to help your loved one who is showing these signs. Welcome to the MedCircle Educational Series, “How To Help A Hoarder: The Signs and Strategies.”

Is It Clutter Or A Hoarding Disorder?

First of all, what constitutes plain clutter and what is compulsive hoarding?

Many people live with clutter. Do you suspect someone you know may be a hoarder, but you aren’t quite sure? In episode one of the series, “How To Help A Hoarder,” Dr. Yip will give you a clear understanding of the differences between clutter and hoarding. Dr.Yip also explains the typical age when hoarding behavior can start. You may be surprised by that. She also shares the surprising behaviors you may not know are signs of hoarding. Dr. Yip also discusses which socio-economic group is more likely to be diagnosed with this disorder. After you have been educated on signs to look for in episode one, Dr. Yip will discuss what causes someone to become a hoarder.

Why Do People Hoard?

In past years, there has not been any substantial research of hoarding disorder. Hoarding is “underdiagnosed and undertreated,” says Sanjaya Saxena, director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders Program at the UC San Diego health system*. “While people realize it’s a problem, they never conceive of it as a medical disorder rooted in brain chemistry.”

Brain imaging studies of hoarders have revealed abnormally low activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which governs thinking and emotion. When people suffering from Hoarding Disorder are shown trigger images- such as pictures of objects being shredded and discarded -that area of the brain lights up and turns hyperactive.

There has been a rise in the study of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and as a result of that, there is now more emphasis put on understanding hoarding disorder. Dr. Yip shares the latest research on the causes of hoarding disorders. Find out if there is a genetic link to hoarding. Could trauma or stressful events cause this hoarding behavior in later years?

You will also discover what are not the causes of hoarding disorder. We may have preconceived notions of what causes a person to become a hoarder. Dr. Yip also discusses that hoarding is a disease, just like addiction. It isn’t always easy to stop a pattern of behavior, whether it is drug or alcohol consumption or accumulating things that you do not need. If a person grows up in a messy, cluttered home, does he or she think that is a normal environment? How much of a role does environment contribute to this disorder?

How to help a hoarder

How To Spot The Hidden Signs of Hoarding Disorder

In part three of MedCircle’s series on Hoarding Disorder, Dr. Yip calls hoarding a secretive disease. How can you spot the signs of hoarding if it is a secretive disorder? Most hoarders do not invite you into their homes where you can see first hand that the person has a problem and needs help. But, there are ways in which you can spot these signs, and Dr. Yip explains them in detail. There are many personality traits that a hoarder has and understanding these traits will help you in understanding their disorder. Learn why hoarding disorder is called an egocentric disorder, and OCD is not.

"Hoarding is a secretive disease." - Dr. Yip

It may not be easy for a hoarder to admit that they have a problem. You may know that you have a problem, but knowing it and admitting it are two different things. You will be shown how a person goes about getting a diagnosis, and what other health issues a doctor may have to rule out. Learn what your role as a support system should be at this point of diagnosis. Dr. Yip lays out a well-orchestrated plan on how you can convince a loved one that they have a problem. Hoarding disorders have been sensationalized by the media, as evidenced by the much-watched T.V. series called, “Hoarders.”

The actual criteria that mental health professionals use to diagnose hoarding disorder are different than you may think. In this session, Dr. Yip will walk you through how to spot them, and how to use motivational interviewing in order to convince someone to see a professional in the first place. Like most disorders, hoarding can be on a spectrum from troublesome to severe. What are the best approaches to use to get your loved one into treatment? Dr. Yip discusses these approaches and how you can implement them as a motivator toward treatment. She describes how to achieve your goal: helping a person see that his or her behavior is a problem.

Treatment for Hoarding Disorder and How To Find The Right Doctor

You can recover from hoarding disorder, but a hoarder cannot do it on their own. In this episode, Dr, Yip will walk you through the treatment for hoarding disorder, and how long the treatment process takes. She will also describe how to avoid the key obstacles to recovery.

There is no one treatment for overcoming hoarding disorder. Learn what combination of treatments are used to help a person battling this disorder. Dr. Yip talks about various types of medications, therapies, and sometimes interventions in the home.

After the treatment plan is put in place, find out when the treatments should start to work, and the criteria you will need to see if it is working. Your role as a support system is crucial to recovery for anyone suffering from a mental health disorder. Hoarding disorder is no exception. Discover how you can be the best support system for your loved on. Part of that is knowing how to find a good mental health professional, knowing the right questions to ask, and, knowing when the chosen professional may not be working out. Dr. Yip goes into detail on all of these issues in finding the right doctor.

Self-Help, Support, and Long-Term Management for Hoarding Disorder

The last episode in the series deals with long-term management of the hoarding disorder. A loved one may wonder what the effects of “successful" treatment look like in the long term. Dr.Yip discusses how long treatment may last, and some strategies to implement to prevent relapse. It is also important to remember that whatever relationship you have to the hoarder- parent, friend, co-worker, church members- there are different strategies that are used. Dr.Yip describes these different approaches based on who the person is giving the support. And of course, there is always the fear of relapsing, and slipping back into old behaviors. The series ends on a most hopeful note, and you can hear what the doctor says about being positive and knowing that there is help there for you- no matter what stage of treatment you are in.

Education is the key to understanding and overcoming any of these disorders. MedCircle Educational Series will help you do just that.

*The Mayo Clinic



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