Hoarding Disorder: A subtype of OCD or ADHD?

Most of us probably know someone who has issues with hoarding, whether it be our great aunt who saves newspapers and cannot throw any away because she plans on one day reading them all, or a neighbor who has 25 old cars on his property that haven’t been touched in years.   Hoarding can often be a debilitating condition that is hard to cure.  Hoarding is defined as the acquisition of and failure to discard large volumes of possessions, resulting in clutter that precludes normal use of living spaces.  Yes, you may  have seen television shows that devote their entire existence to our voyeuristic tendencies of peering into the households and lifestyles of mentally ill individuals with hoarding disorder.

Up until recent years, I have largely believed that hoarding is a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder (or OCD).  That is what I was taught in graduate school, although I’ve noticed that over the years my patients haven’t necessarily met the criteria of someone who has OCD. Maybe sometimes, but not always. Alas, there is a recent study that casts further light on the difficulties of hoarding disorder.

In the December 2010 issue of the Behaviour Research and Therapy Journal appears a study that examines the core features of hoarding which include clutter, difficulty discarding and acquiring to decide whether hoarding is more like OCD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Participants underwent careful diagnostic interviewing and completed questionnaires that measured features of hoarding, OCD symtoms, negative affect (or mood) and the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms of ADHD.  What they found is that OCD symptoms did not significantly predict any of the core features of hoarding disorder. Instead what they found was the inattentive (but not hyperactive or impulsive) symptoms of ADHD significantly predicted the severity of clutter, difficulty discarding and acquiring.

I find this information very informative and is helping me reformulate my ideas and treatment plan for the problems related to hoarding disorder.

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