Treatment of hoarding disorder can be challenging because many people don't recognize the negative impact of hoarding on their lives or don't believe they need treatment. This is especially true if the possessions or animals offer comfort. If these possessions or animals are taken away, people will often react with frustration and anger and quickly collect more to help fulfill emotional needs.
The main treatment for hoarding disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications may be added, particularly if you also have anxiety or depression.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is the primary treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common form of psychotherapy used to treat hoarding disorder. Try to find a therapist or other mental health professional with experience in treating hoarding disorder.
As part of cognitive behavioral therapy, you may:
- Learn to identify and challenge thoughts and beliefs related to acquiring and saving items
- Learn to resist the urge to acquire more items
- Learn to organize and categorize possessions to help you decide which ones to discard
- Improve your decision-making and coping skills
- Declutter your home during in-home visits by a therapist or professional organizer
- Learn to reduce isolation and increase social involvement with more meaningful activities
- Learn ways to enhance motivation for change
- Attend family or group therapy
- Have periodic visits or ongoing treatment to help you keep up healthy habits
Treatment often involves routine assistance from family, friends and agencies to help remove clutter. This is particularly the case for the elderly or those struggling with medical conditions that may make it difficult to maintain effort and motivation.
Children with hoarding disorder
For children with hoarding disorder, it's important to have the parents involved in treatment. Sometimes called "family accommodation," over the years, some parents may think that allowing their child to get and save countless items may help lower their child's anxiety. Actually it may do the opposite, increasing anxiety.
So, in addition to therapy for the child, parents need professional guidance to learn how to respond to and help manage their child's hoarding behavior.
There are currently no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hoarding disorder. Typically, medications are used to treat other disorders such as anxiety and depression that often occur along with hoarding disorder. The medications most commonly used are a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Research continues on the most effective ways to use medications in the treatment of hoarding disorder.