The Truth About Hoarding Disorder is Much Scarier Than ‘Reality’ TV
Reality shows tend to make serious problems seem like freak shows, and Hoarders is as guilty of this as any other reality show on television. But, hoarding disorder is much more serious and common than you probably think.
Though long considered to be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding has been recently classified as its own separate psychiatric disorder in the DSM-5, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
“Hoarding disorder is as common as obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar illness, and autism,” writes Peter Roy-Byrne, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatry, in the New England Journal of Medicine’s JournalWatch.
As Forbes reports, Roy-Byrne was discussing research published in the November 2013 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry by Ashley E. Nordsletten of King’s College London, who analyzed a group of patients who qualified as hoarders according to a basic screening.
Nordsletten and her colleagues saw that only 19 percent of those who self-identify as hoarders met the diagnostic criteria for the condition, suggesting that the criteria is too strict, causing it to miss a significant amount of people who define their hoarding as impacting their quality of life.
The issue of how to diagnose hoarding disorder has been causing some unrest in the psychiatric community as it is a newly classified unique disorder, and a comprehensive literature review published earlier this year found that 2 to 5 percent of the population could meet the criteria for hoarding.
The reality television version of the disorder is prone to shock viewers, but it ultimately is made to look harmless. But, hoarding disorder isn’t benign. Nordsletten found that hoarders tended to be poorer, older, more likely to live alone, and often suffered from additional mental and physical illness. It greatly devastates the lives of those it affects and is much more than an eccentric trait. It is the sign of something much more serious.