Hoarding disorder is thought to afflict somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 percent of the population in California and across the United States. At the present time, a considerable amount of research is focusing on how and why an individual develops hoarding disorder. There is a growing amount of evidence that for some people hoarding disorder starts in childhood and that hoarding disorder does run in families.
Hoarding Disorder Defined
Hoarding disorder is defined as a persistent inability to discard with possessions due to a perceived need to retain or save them. Indeed, a person with hoarding disorder experiences profound distress – even overwhelming distress – at the thought of having to part with items. The net effect is the accumulation of objects to a level that threatens that health and wellbeing of a hoarder.
The Background of Hoarding Disorder Becoming a Recognized Mental Health Condition
Hoarding disorder has only fairly recently been categorized and considered a specific type of mental health condition. This occurred when hoarding disorder was established as specific mental health condition in the DSM-5, the “bible” for mental health practitioners and professionals. This occurred in 2013. Prior to that time, hoarding was considered to be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Research directly into hoarding disorder and its root causes is in its infancy. This largely is due to the fact that this condition has been recognized as a specific type of mental illness for only six years.
Hoarding Disorder and Children
The prevalence of hoarding disorder among children has only fairly recently been subjected to study and analysis. Although in the early stages, this research is revealing (and confirming) that even very young children can exhibit the symptoms of hoarding disorder.
With that noted, there are limitations on making a formal diagnosis of a child when it comes to hoarding disorder. Many mental health professionals hesitate to make a formal diagnosis of a mental illness when it comes to a child for a number of reasons. These include everything from a fear of stigmatizing a child to causing additional harm to a child by placing a label of “mental illness” on a youth to recurring issues with accurate diagnosing a child in regard to a suspected mental health condition.
Understanding these limitations, some mental health professionals forgo making a formal diagnosis of hoarding disorder when it comes to a minor. Rather, they will conclude that certain behaviors exhibited by a child might rise to the level of hoarding disorder if they were displayed by an adult.
Identifying hoarding behavior in a child can be tricky. A child with an inclination to hoard oftentimes is denied access to items he or she might be inclined to excessively collect. Parents tend to control items that remain in possession of a child. They tend to take steps like dispose of accumulated items when a child is sleeping or way from the home. In addition, a child (particularly a younger one) lacks the financial ability to purchase items in excessive amounts (if at all).
Understanding these limitations, a child who exhibits hoarding behavior is likely to collect items that he or she can obtain for no cost. This can include papers from school, ticket stubs, and other such objects. A child might hoard objects found outside like rocks, sticks, and even trash.
Parents of a child exhibiting hoarding behavior typically report that a youth becomes highly agitated when an attempt is made to dispose of hoarded objects. This behavior can escalate to the point that a child “melts down” or even launches a “rage attack” when he or she learns that some object has been disposed of by a parent.
Hoarding Disorder Within Families
Hoarding disorder does appear to “run in families.” Early research studies suggest that a person with hoarding disorder is likely to have what is a known as a first degree relative that labors hoards as well. A first degree relative is a parent, sibling, or child.
Very preliminary research is underway regarding the prospect that genetics plays a role in hoarding disorder. Early findings suggest that a region located on chromosome 14 may be linked to hoarding disorder in families with members suffering from OCD. (Bear in mind that a great deal of research associated with genetics and hoarding disorder is part of broader research on OCD. This is because of the fact that hoarding disorder has only recently been determined to be a standalone mental health condition.) Researchers suggest that the region on chromosome 14 would also be found within families that have members that hoard but that do not have OCD.
Professional Assistance and Hoarding Disorder
There are now professionals who devote their work to assisting people with hoarding disorder. This includes mental health professionals as well hoarder property cleaning specialists.