Reality TV has brought national attention to hoarding, and now a recent change in the influential psychiatric diagnosis guide may actually bring help for millions of Americans suffering from the isolating condition.
Hoarding - a psychological condition that can result in homes crammed floor to ceiling with papers, junk mail, books, clothing and other “valuables”— has been associated with obsessive-compulsive behavior, although experts have long held that the two disorders aren’t necessarily connected.
In the revised, fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), “hoarding disorder” becomes a separate diagnosis, characterized by a “persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.”
The revised diagnosis should “result in more people having access to treatment,” says Randy Frost, a professor of psychology at Smith College who specializes in hoarding issues. “Right now, there are very few clinicians who know how to treat it. Once it shows up in DSM, there will be much more pressure on clinicians to train in how to treat this problem.”
Hoarding isn’t just a messy garage or packed closet. According to the APA, it’s defined by its harmful effects — emotional, physical, social, financial and even legal — both on the hoarder and the hoarder’s family members.