March 7, 2023 Shannon Weise

Treating Hoarding Disorder with Compassion

This past weekend I attended the International OCD Foundation’s Online Hoarding Disorder Conference. I was truly inspired to advocate for those who have Hoarding Disorder (HD) and their families. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the people who struggle with hoarding and how to support them. People living with Hoarding Disorder tend to have trouble with discarding items that leads to an overabundance of possessions. Often the high volume of possessions causes significant impact in a person’s living arrangement and daily life.

Over the course of the conference, I noticed a recurring theme that often prevents folks from seeking appropriate treatment. Hoarding Disorder, like many other disorders, carries significant stigma. There is difficulty accessing services for HD due to shame and isolation. When we think about taking steps towards healing, we must be intentional and create a space where people feel understood. Psychoeducation about HD can assist folks and families to gain insight into the disorder.

We want to approach this work with curiosity and compassion. For example, when we observe the possessions of a person, we want to try to recognize the importance of the memories that the items represent. This highlights the value of connection for this person. Additionally, people keep items with the hope of creating projects which illustrates the imagination and dreams of a person. There are many misconceptions about people with HD and it is critical to remember that this is a complex experience that occurs due to a variety of vulnerabilities and causes. So for me, the emphasis on empathy and complexity of the disorder was a tremendous take away. When we can reframe our perspective and look through the lens of compassion, we can disrupt shame which allows people to seek help.

As an important reminder, we can never go wrong with incorporating compassion and a willingness to understand when working with others! I’m looking forward to continuing to support people with HD and their families. I highly recommend looking into resources through the IOCDF to learn more about Hoarding Disorder. ~Emily