Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you or a loved one has symptoms of hoarding disorder, your health care provider may refer you to a mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, with experience diagnosing and treating hoarding disorder.

Because many people with hoarding disorder symptoms don't recognize that their behavior is a problem, you as a friend or family member may experience more distress over the hoarding than your loved one does.

You may want to first meet alone with a mental health provider to develop an approach for raising your concerns with your loved one. A mental health provider can help you prepare for a conversation to encourage your loved one to seek help.

To consider the possibility of seeking treatment, your loved one will likely need reassurance that no one is going to go into his or her house and start throwing things out. Here's some information to help the person with hoarding disorder symptoms prepare for the first appointment and learn what to expect from the mental health provider.

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. It will help the mental health provider to know what kinds of items you feel compelled to save and why.
  • Key personal information, including traumatic events in your past, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.
  • Your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed.
  • Any medications, vitamins, or other herbal products or supplements you take, and their dosages.

Take a trusted family member or friend along, if possible, for support and to help remember the details discussed at the appointment.

Prepare questions to ask your mental health provider, such as:

  • Do you think my symptoms are cause for concern? Why?
  • Do you think I need treatment?
  • What treatments are most likely to be effective?
  • How much can I expect my symptoms to improve with treatment?
  • How much time will it take before my symptoms begin to improve?
  • How often will I need therapy sessions, and for how long?
  • Are there medications that can help?

Don't hesitate to ask any other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your mental health provider

To gain an understanding of how hoarding disorder is affecting your life, the mental health provider may ask:

  • Do you avoid throwing things away because you believe you might need them later or because they have emotional significance or both?
  • How often do you decide to acquire or keep things you don't have space or use for?
  • How would it make you feel if you had to discard some of your things?
  • Does the clutter in your home keep you from using rooms for their intended purpose, such as cooking, washing dishes or taking a bath?
  • Does clutter prevent you from inviting people to visit your home?
  • How does clutter in your home affect your family members?
  • Does it take you a long time to perform daily tasks because of clutter or because you feel a need to do things perfectly?
  • Do you have so many pets that you can't care for them properly?
  • Have you tried to reduce the clutter on your own or with the help of friends and family? How successful were those attempts?
  • Have others encouraged you to seek professional help?
  • Do you have a close blood relative — a parent or sibling — who is a pack rat?
  • Are you currently being treated for any other medical conditions, including mental illness?
May 08, 2014