Mess, Addressed: Hoarding Gets Its Own Diagnosis

Boston researchers are looking for ways to treat young adults before the behaviors of hoarding become ingrained.

hoarding disorder

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While TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive would have you believe that all hoarders are middle-aged shut-ins, it turns out that the disorder actually sets in during adolescence—no surprise to anyone familiar with college dorm rooms.

To address this problem, researchers from Smith College and Boston University’s School of Social Work have been studying the disease, looking for ways to treat young adults before the behaviors become ingrained. Thanks in part to their work, hoarding—long considered a subset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—will get its own diagnosis next month in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“The brain scans of people with hoarding disorder when they are trying to make a decision about an object is different than what we see in people with OCD,” explains Randy Frost, an author and professor of psychology at Smith. He’s working to develop a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that will address the major facets of hoarding: acquisition problems, difficulty discarding, and disorganization. “We are trying to identify the core vulnerabilities among young adults and to understand the development of the disorder,” adds Jordana Muroff, an assistant professor at BU. Hall monitors nationwide, rejoice!