Recently, more people have become aware of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and hoarding. Because hoarding often appears as a symptom of OCD, the same treatment for both may be effective.
How Do Specialists Treat OCD?
The traditional treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT.
CBT is, according to About.com, a treatment which “helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors.” It is used to treat a broad variety of disorders from depression to generalized anxiety. It is a highly effective treatment for many people suffering from a mental health illness.
In CBT, the therapist first has to teach the patient to understand his or her illness (OCD, for example). Education is a key part of learning how to cope with an illness effectively. The therapist can recommend a variety of helpful and informative resources to the patient.
Another treatment which is commonly used for people with OCD is prescription medication. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which are also widely used to treat depression, work to alter the amount of serotonin in the brain (MayoClinic). Serotonin is a chemical which boosts mood.
How Do Specialists Treat Hoarding?
Anti-anxiety medications can be used for hoarding behavior as well as hoarding combined with OCD. Typically, anti-anxiety drugs are more effective for people who exhibit hoarding behavior as a symptom of OCD.
For hoarding without OCD, the treatment is usually based in traditional therapy. People who have hoarding tendencies often acquired them during times of stress or scarcity. For this reason, it is helpful to teach the affected person about the issue and explain why the hoarding behavior needs to change. After that, the therapist can show the hoarder specific methods to use to eliminate the most harmful habits.
An important part of treatment for hoarding is to change the false beliefs and irrational thought patterns which contribute to the sickness.
As mentioned in a previous part of this series, hoarders who do not have OCD may not see anything wrong with their behavior. It is important that the therapist imparts to the patient an understanding of why hoarding is unhealthy and how it can lead to a reduced quality of life (poor social relationships, inappropriate attachment to objects and distress when they are touched, etc).
What Kind of Treatment Is Best for You?
The most effective treatment for you can be determined by a licensed mental health professional. You may respond best to CBT or a combination of CBT and prescription drugs.
Your therapist will need you to be formally diagnosed before proceeding with any treatment. This will help him or her to determine the best way to help you heal.