Help for hoarders

By Deb Kallen, Communications Specialist

For the number of times that hoarding has been in the Portland-area news lately, it would seem like this mental health disorder is not that uncommon. Think of all the hoarders there may be whose excessive clutter hasn’t resulted in a fire and therefore didn’t make the news. I did a little research by visiting one of my favorite friends, Wikipedia. I wanted to get some idea of the prevalence of hoarding, which causes people to have persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their value. Hoarding can get so extreme that people with this disorder can find it difficult to navigate around their homes, cook meals or find cleared space to sleep because of their mounds of “stuff.”

Here’s what I found: Prevalence rates are estimated at 2 percent to 5 percent in adults, more common in older adults than in younger groups, in men versus women, and is inversely related to household income. This last fact might suggest that if a hoarder was encouraged to seek help, he may not have the funds to do so. While there are a handful of therapists in the Portland area who specialize in treatment for hoarders, their services can be expensive. Fortunately, there is a free psychiatrist-led group in Portland held at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. It meets twice a month. Although this group is designed for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), many of the group members have problems with hoarding.

Hoarders themselves rarely recognize they have a problem, so it is up to families and friends to notice if hoarding is compromising sanitation and safety. If you know of somebody whose life is negatively affected by hoarding, contact OHSU clinic at 503-494-8613 for more information about the group.

For those readers who are interested to know the names of the private therapists who specialize in treating hoarding, check out the International OCD Foundation website for the treatment-provider database.