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Butler Hospital
Butler Hospital

Support Group for Compulsive Hoarding

Butler Hospital offers a free monthly support group on compulsive hoarding. People suffering from compulsive hoarding, their family and friends are welcome. The group meets from 5 pm to 6:30 pm on the third Wednesday of each month in the Ray Conference Center at Butler Hospital and is run by Dr. Maria Mancebo.

2013 Schedule
October 16
November 20
December 18

2014 Schedule
January 15
February 19
March 19
April 16
May 21
June 18
July 16
August 20
September 17
October 15
November 19
December 17

Facts about Hoarding (from the OC Foundation)

What is compulsive hoarding?
Compulsive hoarding includes ALL three of the following:

  • A person collects and keeps a lot of items, even things that appear useless or of little value to most people.
  • These items clutter the living spaces and keep the person from using their rooms as they were intended.
  • These items cause distress or problems in day-to-day activities.

What are the signs of compulsive hoarding?
  • Difficulty getting rid of items
  • A large amount of clutter in the office, at home, in the car, or in other spaces (i.e. storage units) that makes it difficult to use furniture or appliances or move around easily
  • Losing important items like money or bills in the clutter
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the volume of possessions that have ‘taken over’ the house or workspace
  • Being unable to stop taking free items, such as advertising flyers or sugar packets from restaurants
  • Buying things because they are a “bargain” or to “stock up”
  • Not inviting family or friends into the home due to shame or embarrassment
  • Refusing to let people into the home to make repairs

What are the effects of hoarding?
  • Severe clutter threatens the health and safety of those living in or near the home, causing health problems, structural damage, fire, and even death
  • Expensive and emotionally devastating evictions or other court actions can lead to hospitalizations or homelessness
  • Conflict with family members and friends who are frustrated and concerned about the state of the home and the hoarding behaviors
What makes getting rid of clutter difficult for hoarders?
  • Difficulty organizing possessions
  • Unusually strong positive feelings (joy, delight) when getting new items
  • Strong negative feelings (guilt, fear, anger) when considering getting rid of items
  • Strong beliefs that items are “valuable” or “useful”, even when other people do not want them
  • Feeling responsible for objects and sometimes thinking of inanimate objects as having feelings
  • Denial of a problem even when the clutter or acquiring clearly interferes with a person’s life

Who struggles with hoarding behavior?
Hoarding behaviors can begin as early as the teenage years, although the average age of a person seeking treatment for hoarding is about 50. Hoarders often endure a lifelong struggle with hoarding. They tend to live alone and may have a family member with the problem. It seems likely that serious hoarding problems are present in at least 1in 50 people, but they may be present in as many as 1 in 20.

What kinds of things do people hoard?
Most often, people hoard common possessions, such as paper (e.g., mail, newspapers), books, clothing and containers (e.g., boxes, paper and plastic bags). Some people hoard garbage or rotten food. More rarely, people hoard animals or human waste products. Often the items collected are valuable but far in excess of what can reasonably be used.

How is hoarding different from collecting?
In hoarding, people seldom seek to display their possessions, which are usually kept in disarray. In collecting, people usually proudly display their collections and keep them well organized.

Can compulsive hoarding be treated?

Yes, compulsive hoarding can be treated. Unfortunately it has not responded well to the usual treatments that work for OCD.
Strategies to treat hoarding include:
  • Challenging the hoarder’s thoughts and beliefs about the need to keep items and about collecting new things.
  • Going out without buying or picking up new items.
  • Getting rid of and recycling clutter. First, by practicing the removal of clutter with the help of a clinician or coach and then independently removing clutter.
  • Finding and joining a support group or teaming up with a coach to sort and reduce clutter.
  • Understanding that relapses can occur.
  • Developing a plan to prevent future clutter.
Are there medicines that can help reduce hoarding?
Medicine alone does not appear to reduce hoarding behavior. However, they may help reduce the symptoms. Medicine can be used to treat conditions that may make hoarding worse, like depression and anxiety.

Are hoarding and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) related?
Compulsive hoarding was commonly considered to be a type of OCD. Some estimate that as many as 1 in 4 people with OCD also have compulsive hoarding. Recent research suggests that nearly 1 in 5 compulsive hoarders have non-hoarding OCD symptoms. Compulsive hoarding is also considered a feature of obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and may develop along with other mental illnesses, such as dementia and schizophrenia.

More Resources on Hoarding:
  • OC Foundation
  • Self-Help manuals for patients
    • Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring Workbook - Stekettee & Frost (2007)
    • Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding - Neziroglu et al. (2004)
    • Buried Treasures - Tolin et al. (2007)
    • Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding - Neziroglu et al. (2004)

  • Book for Family Members of Hoarders
    • Digging Out - Tompkins & Hartl (2009)

  • Treatment manuals for professionals
    • Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring: Therapist Guide - Stekettee &Frost (2007)
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