In “Separating hoarding from OCD,” a study from 2009, researchers Rachman et al. discuss the ways in which hoarding and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are different.
The authors of the study first explain that ‘hoarding,’ while recognized as an observed clinical behavior, is not listed in the DSM (the manual used by professionals to diagnose mental illness) as a disorder independent of OCD.
For behavior to be classified as hoarding, the researchers say it must “seriously interfere with normal daily activities, create hazards, [and] cause annoyance and complaints from other people.” Living in a cluttered environment and being unusually attached to unneeded items are also seen as signs of hoarding.
So why is hoarding not always considered a manifestation of OCD?
According to Rachman et al., hoarders do not consider their behavior to be irrational or nonsensical. People with Obsessive-Compulsive, by contrast, are able to objectively recognize that their behaviors are bizarre, unnecessary and unhealthy.
Another key difference highlighted in the study is the state of distress in a person with OCD versus in a person with hoarding behavior. An individual who is diagnosed with OCD will feel disturbed by the symptoms of the illness (for example, the compulsion to perform an act a specific number of times in order to lessen anxiety). A person who hoards is likely to feel distressed by others who pressure him or her to throw items away. However, a hoarder does not usually feel upset by the hoarding itself.
Why Do These Differences Matter?
Knowing what makes OCD different from hoarding is important. For mental health professionals, it helps them to treat people more effectively.
If someone does not realize that his or her behavior is unusual or harmful, it is more difficult for the clinician to treat the illness. In order for a person to be successfully treated for a disorder, he or she must be aware of the destructiveness or disruptive nature of the illness. He or she must also express a desire to be rid of the maladaptive behavior, then put forth a genuine and sustained effort to end it. This is true for most mental health disorders.
Additional Observations about Hoarding
The researchers proposed that hoarding can be linked to disorders other than OCD. People who have schizophrenia, for instance, sometimes exhibit hoarding behaviors.
In the next and final part of the series, various treatments and helpful lifestyle tips will be discussed.