What Is Hoarding Disorder

As of May 2013, Hoarding Disorder is a new psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The American Psychiatric Association defines hoarding disorder as:

The persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions. The behavior usually has harmful effects- emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal- for the person suffering from the disorder and family members. For individuals who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from people with normal collecting behaviors. They accumulate a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible.

Symptoms of the disorder cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning including maintaining an environment for self and/others. While some people who hoard may not be particularly distressed by their behavior, their behavior can be distressing to other people, such as family members or landlords.

Hoarding disorder is included in the DSM-5 because research shows that it is a distict disorder with distinct treatments. Using DSM-IV, individuals with pathological hoarding behaviors could receive a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anxiety disorder not otherwise specified or no diagnosis at all, since many severe cases of hoarding are not accompanied by obsessive or compulsive behavior. Creating a unique diagnosis in DSM-5 will increase public awareness, improve identification of cases, and stimulate both research and the development of specific treatment for hoarding disorder.

This is particularly important as studies show that the prevalence of hoarding disorder is estimated at approximately two to five percent of the population. These behaviors can often be quite severe and even threatening. Beyond the mental impact of the disorder, the accumulation of clutter can create a public health issue by completely filling people’s home and creating fall and fire hazards.


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