As stated in last week's article, hoarding has to do with being compelled to collect things or failing to get rid of a reasonable number of certain objects. Even when storage becomes a problem, hoarding tendencies leave the sufferer with the inability to fix the problem and often effects social interactions with loved ones and others.

Research indicates that hoarding usually starts in early adolescents, around age 12, and tends to worsen with age. For both children and adults, hoarding has two components: obsessions and compulsions. For example, in children, the obsession aspect is the accumulating of useless or pointless items such as old magazines. While the compulsion, for example, is hiding food or objects under the bed and/or refusing to throw out used drinking straws or candy wrappers. In adults, compulsions are physical or mental repetitive behaviors that are used as relief for some of the anxiety caused by the obsessions or that are applied according to very strict self-imposed rigid rules.

Hoarding can cause a variety of complications in adults and children that effect their daily functioning. Unsanitary conditions pose a risk to one's health. Individuals can not complete routine chores, such as bathing or cooking due to the clutter of objects. Studies indicate poor employment performance for adults and academic difficulties for children. Finally, these obsessions and compulsions can lead to loneliness and social isolation.

Adults with hoarding are likely aware a problem exist. They are able to disconnect their obsessive-compulsive thoughts and realize the need to develop more healthy behavioral living habits. Children, however, have difficulty with this disconnection process and often are embarrassed or unaware to ask for help.

The good news is that hoarding, in adults as well as children, is highly treatable. Most individuals who hoard are able to change their thinking patterns to discount the obsessions, which compel the compulsions, until the obsessions stop with cognitive behavioral treatments.

Tips for Parents

  • Seek the assistance of a trained professional that is familiar with childhood hoarding. Often individual therapy is needed with supportive family therapy to assist with appropriate treatment interventions.
  • Educate yourself about hoarding to assist with treatment interventions and your child's recovery.
  • Make your children feel safe and comfortable. Do not take a judgmental stance, but rather discuss solutions to the behaviors and support therapeutic interventions.
  • Realize your expectations. Do not expect that this problem will be resolve itself immediately. It will take time to deal with emotional issues connected to the hoarding behavior and learn new habits from therapeutic interventions. Remember it is a step-by-step process.