Signs & Behaviors of Hoarding Disorder in Seniors

Behaviors of Hoarding Disorder in Seniors
Behaviors of Hoarding Disorder in Seniors
Behaviors of Hoarding Disorder in Seniors

A recent addition to DSM-5, hoarding disorder is characterized primarily by urges to save items, difficulty in discarding current possessions, and excessive clutter in the home. In addition to hoarding disorder, hoarding behaviors may result from depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even some eating disorders. DSM-5 norms for hoarding disorder dictate that the hoarding conducts root clinically significant deficiency in an individual’s ability to function and that the signs are not the result of any psychiatric disorder or any other medical condition.

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Older adults may say that they spontaneously collect all the ‘stuff’ because they believe that the items will be valuable or useful in the future. Or they may claim the item holds a sentimental value or are unique, or irreplaceable. In some cases, the elucidation is related to finding ‘deals’ even if the deal is for something that they don’t want or need.

Regardless of the claims, piling up stuff without any reason is really a disorder that can have serious consequences.

The Stuff Elderly Hoard

The most common items the elderly hoard are books, clothing, and newspapers. While the research is relatively new, it has been revealed that hoarding behavior is more likely to affect those with a family history of hoarding. Hoarding disorder can affect anyone regardless of his/her educational status, race, gender, or age. Some experts believe hoarding disorder is a conservative psychological problem caused by the feelings of insufficiency and scarceness. However, scientists today have not been able to determine the exact cause.

The incidence of Hoarding Disorder in the Elderly

Epidemiological reports of hoarding disorder in the society are based on the estimated frequency of people with some level of hoarding deeds, not of people meeting the criteria for hoarding disorder. However, the lack of consistent measurement of hoarding symptoms greatly limits on the stats about the prevalence of hoarding disorder in older adults.

But a large study organized including older adults with DSM-5 criteria for hoarding disorder found that 68% were women and 85% were white, lived alone, and unmarried.

The Risk Factors of Harding in the Elderly

Because hoarders are unwilling to seek medical attention, it is not clear how common hoarding disorder is. Some of the risk factors that the researchers were able to found include:

  • Age– As said, hoarding is not restricted to any age, gender, or race but is believed to start in early teens. It characteristically progresses to a restrained problem when an individual reaches his/her 20’s and 30’s, becoming more severe in the 40’s and 50’s.
  • Social Isolation– Individuals who hoard are stereotypically socially reserved. This can be the reason for hoarding or can be the result of hoarding.
  • Life Events– Leading a hectic life and not having a suitable coping mechanism could lead to hoarding
  • Family History– Several pieces of research dictate that people with a family history of hoarding are prone to become a hoarder themselves.
  • Alcohol Abuse– Social Experiments have found that the majority of hoarders have a history of alcohol addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Hoarding

It is easy to tell if someone is becoming a hoarder. However, hoarding is different from collecting and cluttering. A hoarder will save random stuff from his/her daily life and store them unsystematically. Giving away, selling, throwing away, or even recycling is very hard for people who hoard. Individuals with a hoarding disorder, their hoarding and collections will interfere with life. Some signs and behaviors to watch for:

  • Holding onto stuff that most people often throw away considering having no value like newspapers, junk mail, catalogs, broken items, or old clothing
  • Neglected repair work
  • Keeping the shades drawn and not allowing family members or visitors in
  • Lack of functional living space or unsanitary living conditions. Not able to use kitchen appliances or not able to sleep in their bed; filthy bathroom facilities; tabletops are full, and not able to move freely around the home
  • Having an intense sentimental attachment to objects that they don’t want or need
  • Obsessive shopping
  • Having too many animals in which they can’t properly care for
  • Intense anxiety over throwing away items
  • High risk of health and safety hazards
  • Embarrassed or distressed over cluttered items
  • Suspicions of others touching hoarded items
  • Obsession over running low on an item or needing it in the future

How to Help a Hoarder?                                    

Helping a hoarder, especially if he/she is a loved one is not easy. Not understanding the seriousness of hoarding is common among people who hoard thereby making it a tough conversation. The starting point is tough, cognitive-behavioral therapy is often required that will help identify the thought process that has caused the behavior. Group therapy is also prescribed that is often combined with medications. The rescue can take months or even years to overcome.

Final Words

Overcoming problems like hoarding is not easy, hence it is important to start slow and handle objects only once. Scale down the collections and try to catch the behavior in its early stages.

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