The Anxiety and Agoraphobia Treatment Center
There is Hope. There is Help.
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112 Bala Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Hoarding


Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has negative effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and family members.

Symptoms of hoarding may include:

  • Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
  • Difficulty deciding what to keep or where to put things
  • Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions
  • Discomfort with other people touching items
  • Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; checking the trash for accidentally discarded objects
  • Depression, shame and withdrawal from family and friends
  • A diminished quality of life.  For instance, parts of the person’s home may be inaccessible or not able to be used for their intended purpose or living conditions may be unhealthy or dangerous.

Treatment for Hoarding:  A specific type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be helpful in hoarding.  The therapy uses cognitive restructuring and Exposure/Response Prevention (E/RP) to help the person challenge unhelpful beliefs about objects and to explore the true consequences of discarding such objects.   The idea is NOT to try to “talk” someone into letting go of their possessions or engage in a “clean out process.”  Rather, in CBT the therapist works collaboratively with the client and helps them to identify and change patterns of thinking that are leading to their excessive acquiring of things and their difficulty organizing and purging items.  Through E/RP the client learns how to gradually resist bringing in more items, how to let go of items and how to tolerate the anxiety that they may experience.   Overall, the client learns to face situations that generate anxiety, while at the same time replacing avoidance with more adaptive coping strategies.

An Important Note:  Some people get very stressed out at the prospect of completing E/RP and addressing their hoarding behavior.   This is most common prior to starting treatment and usually lessens once the individual begins practicing regular exposure.  If you feel this way, keep in mind that our therapists work collaboratively with clients to develop treatment goals and work at a pace that is agreeable to the client.