Monday, April 5, 2010

For Hoarders, The Mess Begins In The Mind

by Patti Neighmond

We've all seen the TV shows and heard the stories: people who collect so much stuff they can hardly move in their own home. Some even sleep in the car or yard because their homes are so crammed.

Researchers now believe these people have always been hoarders, and that compulsive hoarding is an anxiety disorder that gets worse with time. Frequently, the problem first emerges in childhood or adolescence. But people often aren't "found out" until they're older, often when their homes present fire hazards or neighbors complain. Unfortunately, there aren't any proven treatments to help them.

Therapy Aims To Cut The Hoarding Habit
At the University of California, San Diego Department of Psychiatry, psychologist Catherine Ayers specializes in anxiety disorders and late-life hoarding. She's researching treatments for older hoarders. Right now, she's using a form of behavior therapy and cognitive remediation that focuses on building concrete skills.

Ayers says classic cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) — therapy based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors — doesn't work well with older adults who hoard. In large part, that's because CBT relies on abstract thinking, which can be difficult for seniors, especially those with certain mental deficits. So in therapy, Ayers focuses on concrete skill building. "We're teaching people how to plan, how to prioritize, how to do basic to-do lists, how to use a calendar, do problem solving," she says..." More