Mental health advocates and clinicians are calling for more targeted research and hoping for less public stigma now that the World Health Organization has recognized hoarding as a medical condition, distinct from other disorders with which it is often associated. The new definition is found in the recently released 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the international standard for diagnosing and reporting diseases, disorders, injuries and related health conditions.
This updates the circa 1990 ICD 10th edition and now aligns with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which categorized hoarding separately from obsessive compulsive disorder in 2013. A report in the international medical research and news digest, The Lancet, reiterates that expanding stashes of collectables also present a health and safety hazard for residents and neighbours of hoarders’ properties, while the treatment is far more complex than simply removing accumulated materials and/or menageries.
Although ICD-11 clarifies that excessive acquisition and extreme aversion to discarding possessions can be a unique condition, many sufferers have other diagnoses or emotional stresses such as bereavement. The Lancet report notes that individuals with autism spectrum disorder may be prone to hoard certain kinds of items, while in comparison to the general population, hoarders “are more likely to depressed, overweight or to have chronic medical conditions”.
Psychiatric researchers are focused on identifying triggers and positive interventions. The new ICD-11 classification is considered a boost for the relatively nascent field of study.
“There are frequently early signs of hoarding disorders in adolescence, although presentations do not tend to occur until much later in life,” the Lancet report states. “There is emerging evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment; whether this is best delivered individually or in groups is yet to be confirmed.”
Landlords could be among the beneficiaries of better awareness and kinder perceptions of hoarding. They are currently among the most common discoverers and reporters of tenants with the condition since those afflicted may neither see their behaviour as problematic nor wish to expose it by seeking help.