I have often speculated that
hoarding is a more prevalent problem that is generally recognized. One sees advertisements offering ways to
help alcoholics, drug abusers, sex addicts, out-of-control gamblers, people who
are chronically shy, and other forms of self-defeating behavior. But it seems I've known more people who have
problems with hoarding than who had had those other troubles. One year, I shared a house with a woman who
kept stacks of old newspapers in nearly every room, including the basement,
with the project of trying to read them all.
But of course the new newspapers arrived every day, and she wasn't able
to throw out the old ones that frequently, so the piles just grew. I found it pretty hard to live with.
There was a documentary TV series
in the UK a few years ago, A Life of Grime, about the task of a local
council group that dealt with health problems in the community. One of the recurring characters was an old
man, Mr. Trebus,
who lived on his own in his house so full of trash and garbage that it was
infested with rats. He would refuse to
throw out anything and he went around the local streets and collected trash
that other people discarded. Eventually
the neighbors complained and his house was forcibly cleaned, which caused him
considerable distress. The case of Mr.
Trebus is one of the most extreme and saddest cases of hoarding but it is not
Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding
is a short guide about this sort of problem, explaining the ways that it tends
to interfere with sufferer's lives. It
is a clearly written book, with short chapters, short sections, and plenty of
exercises, and lists. It explains a
broad range of treatments, both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic, and
places special emphasis on cognitive behavioral therapy. It is an encouraging and optimistic book
that assures the reader that the behavior can be stopped.
It is very hard to get hoarders to recognize that
they have a problem. As with other
compulsive behavior, people tend to be very attached to it, and intervening is
frustratingly difficult. So there are
certainly no promises that using this book will lead to significant
change. Nevertheless, it is a
start. There are not many books that
focus solely on hoarding, and this one is backed up with a strong grasp of the
scientific literature. The authors are
all from the Bio-Behavioral Institute
in Great Neck on Long Island, New York, and Fugen Neziroglu is affiliated with
the Psychiatry Department at New York University Medical School. People suffering directly or indirectly
from hoarding behavior will probably learn something useful from Overcoming
Compulsive Hoarding and it is possible they might find a way to solve their
© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of
the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at
Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online
Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine,
psychiatry and psychology.