If you or a loved one has symptoms of hoarding disorder, your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, 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 professional to develop an approach for raising your concerns with your loved one. A mental health professional 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 professional.
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 professional to know what kinds of items you feel compelled to save and personal beliefs about acquiring and retaining items.
- Challenges you have experienced in the past when trying to manage your clutter.
- Key personal information, including traumatic events or losses 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, supplements or other herbal products you take, and their dosages.
- Questions to ask your mental health professional.
Take a trusted family member or friend along, if possible, for support and to help remember the details discussed at the appointment. Bringing pictures and videos of living spaces and storage areas affected by clutter is helpful.
Questions to ask your mental health professional may include:
- 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 other questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your mental health professional
To gain an understanding of how hoarding disorder is affecting your life, your mental health professional may ask:
- What types of things do you tend to acquire?
- Do you avoid throwing things away?
- Do you avoid making decisions about your clutter?
- How often do you decide to get 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?
- Does clutter prevent you from inviting people to visit your home?
- How many pets do you have? Are you able to provide appropriate care for them?
- Have you tried to reduce the clutter on your own or with the help of friends and family? How successful were those attempts?
- Have your family members expressed concern about the clutter?
- Are you currently being treated for any mental health conditions?