by Randy Frost, PhD
This year, the International OCD Foundation’s 7th Annual Hoarding Meeting will be held July 18-21 in Austin, TX . Though a commonly used term, hoarding disorder (HD) has only been recognized as a mental health condition in the past 20 years. It became one of the newest mental health disorders in 2013 when it was included in the latest revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual (DSM-5). The central feature of hoarding disorder is not clutter, but difficulty letting go of possessions that interfere with the ability to live. In addition to difficulty letting go, most cases of hoarding disorder are accompanied by excessive acquisition of possessions either through buying or the acquisition of free things.
Problems associated with hoarding disorder come from clutter that prevents people from using their living spaces in the way they were intended. While some clutter can be normal, for people who suffer from HD, clutter can be so severe that they often can’t sleep in a bed or sit in a chair. Preparing food or the ability to keep things clean can also be impaired. In more serious cases, people avoid having appliances and utilities repaired because of fears of how they will be treated by repair people. Financial problems can arise from not being able to find important paperwork and/or excessive buying. Most dangerous are residences where the clutter blocks the means of egress in case of fire or medical emergency.
Hoarding disorder is associated with a number of other emotional problems such as depression and attention deficit disorder, however, it is not solely a mental health problem. HD has serious implications for public health and safety as well. People from a variety of disciplines and perspectives have a stake in understanding and gaining control over this problem, including:
- health department personnel,
- housing officials,
- child and elder service professionals,
- professional organizers,
- friends, family members, and people living with HD.,
- first responders (e.g., police, fire) who sometimes face hoarding situations that require immediate attention.
The Hoarding Meeting is a forum for all of these stakeholders to come together, learn, and share their experiences.
The Hoarding Meeting will include talks by the scientists who led to the identification and definition of this disorder, and who are making strides to understand not just why it happens, but what can be done about it. Breakthrough research on etiology and treatment are just part of what you will find at this meeting. The meeting is also an opportunity to:
- Attend workshops on managing possessions, controlling acquisition, and understanding attachments to possessions are featured.
- Meet researchers, clinicians, and people with lived experience of HD.
- Hear inspirational stories of struggle, triumph, and survival.
- Share your story with others who understand.
- Get involved and add your voice to the community of people focusing on this problem.
- Hear about the latest developments in the science of HD.
If you or a family member have lived experience with hoarding disorder, or you deal with hoarding problems in your work, we invite you to share your perspective with researchers and those working on interventions for HD.
Whether you are a first-time attendee or have been coming to this meeting for years, you will come away with a clearer understanding of HD and new knowledge about treatment and interventions. To learn about the 7th Annual Hoarding Meeting, click here.