Friday, August 28, 2009

Animal hoarding often a hidden disorder

Expert says extent of behavior unknown


The news accounts pop up occasionally — scores of cats, dogs or other animals living uncared for in cramped, often filthy conditions with a person claiming to be helping them.

The medical term for such behavior is animal hoarding. Holly Dreger talked about the symptoms of the disorder and how to help a sufferer Thursday afternoon in a lecture at The William W. Backus Hospital.

“They really believe they are helping the animals,” said Dregar, director of behavioral health services at Catholic Charities in Norwich.

She said hoarders overwhelmingly are older women, and numerous theories exist for the cause.

“One is that people have attachment issues,” she told the audience of 24. “They may have had abusive, neglectful or inconsistent parenting. An animal is a stable fixture in a chaotic home.”

She said other theories include trauma and chemical conditions affecting the portion of the brain that deals with thinking, planning and emotions.

She also said mental health professionals do not know how prevalent the problem is.

“Some sources say 600, others 6,000,” she said. She cited a recent study published by Tufts University saying that 250,000 animals per year are affected..." More