Until recently, compulsive hoarding often remained out of sight, partly because hoarders tend to avoid having visitors and rarely seek help. But television shows such as "Hoarders" and "Hoarding: Buried Alive" have increased public awareness by presenting a vivid picture of hoarding to millions of viewers. Mental health professionals are also taking a fresh look at the problem and have proposed making "hoarding disorder" a distinct category in the diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists.
Until now, hoarding has been classified psychiatrically as a symptom affecting up to 20 percent of people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But more than 80 percent of hoarders lack the compulsions and repetitive behaviors that characterize OCD; sometimes hoarding becomes a problem for a person with no psychiatric illness (as currently defined) or psychiatric history.
Professor Gail Steketee, dean at Boston University's School of Social Work, says that "the data are pretty clear that there are substantial differences … It will be helpful to have a diagnosis with a clear definition (of a hoarding disorder)."
To help diagnose compulsive hoarding, Steketee and colleagues atYale University School of Medicine and Smith College developed a brief questionnaire called the Hoarding Rating Scale Interview (HRS-I). In a 2010 study, HRS-I showed promise in distinguishing hoarding participants from those with OCD; it was also useful in determining the severity of compulsive hoarding. (To see the questionnaire, go to health.harvard.edu/hoarding..." More