Children with hoarding disorder not only collect objects excessively, they develop overpowering emotional attachments to their possessions. In fact, they worry about them so much that it interferes with their functioning. Whereas a rock or stamp collector will search out specific items, a hoarder will acquire items seemingly at random and then struggle when asked to part with them. And he might collect things that to other people seem worthless, including things like rocks, toilet paper tubes, paper, Happy Meal boxes, and food. This results in a cluttered room and contributes to tension in the family, especially when a parent tries to clean up the mess.
- Emotional reaction to possessions
- Constant worry about possessions
- Collecting things that might not be seen as valuable or useful by others
- Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions
- Contained hoarding, i.e. possession stowed under a bed or in areas of bedroom
- Cluttered living spaces
- Significant distress or functional impairment
How hoarding is treated depends on the age of the child. For children 8 and younger, psychologists often work with parents to set up a behavioral plan, first to stop a child from acquiring new things and then to use incentives to gradually get rid of some of her hoarded objects. For older children, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) with a therapist versed in treating hoarding is helpful. CBT helps children understand why they feel compelled to hoard and teaches them how to decide which possessions are worth keeping and which should be discarded.
The medications most often used in a treatment plan for hoarding are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Not all hoarders respond to medications.