Awareness required on hoarding disorder, say doctors

Hoarding disorder is a condition where a person has compulsive urge to collect the huge amounts of objects which may or may not be useful. People suffering from this disorder also face difficulty in voluntarily getting rid of these possessions. 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 condition.

Awareness required on hoarding disorder, say doctors

The lives of Ramnath’s (name changed) family members have become difficult because of his one habit. The 52-year-old Ramnath had a habit of collecting different objects and was not ready to get rid of them even after realising that they are of no use. There were piles of unnecessary objects such as old newspapers, magazines, empty bottles etc. which he thought were important and would be useful in future. There was no way to talk him about disposing these things. Finally, his family decided to get medical help.

After consulting the doctors, Ramnath was diagnosed with ‘hoardings disorder’. In hoarding disorder, a person has compulsive urge to collect the huge amounts of objects. These possessions may not be useful and may not have any monetary value. People suffering from this disorder also face difficulty in voluntarily getting rid of these possessions. Previously, it was considered as a subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but in 2013, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) categorized it as a separate disorder.

“Hoarding disorder may not show classic symptoms of OCD. This disorder usually starts to take shape in early adolescents. After a while, it starts to interfere with the personal and professional life of the patients. That’s why it is important to identify this disease as soon as possible and get medical help. Early identification is crucial to treat this disorder,” said Dr Sagar Mundada, Mumbai-based psychiatrist, and the chairman of youth wing of IMA.

Hoarding disorder has to be treated with the combination of medicines and cognitive behavior therapy. After the disorder is identified, it is important to make the patient aware of his condition and sensitise family members approach towards the patient. “

We all hoard something but in this disease, the person cannot evaluate the importance and the utility of the objects. It leads to impairment in the day to day functioning. So, the role family members are crucial in treating these patients. A doctor will prescribe medicine and will use therapies. At home, family members have to act like a co-therapist. They need to sensitively be part of the therapeutic process,” said Dr Milan Balakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatrist at Juno Clinic.

According to the experts, the problem with hoarding disorder is its symptoms are taken for granted as a habit. People don’t realise that this could be a separate disorder. So, it is reported less to the doctors.

Dr Manish Tale from Psychiatric Department of Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and Hospital studied 50 patients to study prevalence and phenomenology of hoarding disorder in OCD. “In my study, I found that 14.5% patients of OCD patients have hoarding disorder. Recently, it has been categorised separately so there are no detailed studies available. More awareness should be spread about this disorder so that people can get medical help on right time,” Dr Manish Tale added.