CAUSES, RISK FACTORS, and COURSE http://www.psychiatry.org/hoarding-disorder
It is not known what causes hoarding disorder, but researchers have identified a number of risk factors. Hoarding is more common among individuals with a family member who is also a hoarder. Genetic research has begun to identify gene variants that may convey risk for hoarding. Brain injuries have also been found to cause secondary or acquired hoarding symptoms in some patients.
Hoarding disorder is also associated with distinct abnormalities of brain function and neuropsychological performance, distinct from those seen in people with OCD or other disorders.
Many people with hoarding disorder also experience other psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or alcohol use disorder. A stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one, can also trigger or worsen symptoms of hoarding.
Symptoms of hoarding, such as difficulty discarding items, usually start during the teen years. The average age at onset of fist symptoms is 13. Hoarding disorder tends to be chronic, often becoming more severe over decades, as more and more clutter accumulates, causing more and more dysfunction. Hence, early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment are crucial to improving outcomes.
Animal Hoarding: ‘No Kill’ Or Helping That Hurts?
In a compelling 2011 book, “Cold-Blooded Kindness,” subtitled in part, “…Reflections on Helping that Hurts,” Barbara Oakley introduces concepts that may help us better understand how ostensibly compassionate people can commit the criminal act of animal hoarding and seem oblivious to the suffering and cruelty of keeping often hundreds of animals ….
Animal hoarding is reaching epidemic levels* nationwide, and increasingly there is evidence that it is correlated to the “No Kill” movement. Maddies’ Fund defines “No Kill” as, ““…all healthy and treatable animals are saved…” Nathan Winograd, challenges his followers farther, stating on a website called The No-Kill Nation, “The only animals dying in a No Kill community are dogs and cats who are irremediably suffering, are sick or injured with a poor or grave prognosis for rehabilitation, and vicious dogs with a poor prognosis. (This does not include shy or non-aggressive scared dogs.) Nothing short of that is acceptable. And nothing less will do.” http://www.thenokillnation.com/?p=8 *what exactly is “epidemic” level, is not explained…and we doubt that it is an epidemic thing anyway.
Animal hoarding: Lesser-known problem for public health, welfare
Animal hoarding is a psychiatric disorder that consists of accumulating large numbers of animals at home, usually cats and dogs, without providing them with a minimal standard of care. Researchers from IMIM (Hospital del Mar Research Institute) publish the first European study to provide data on this disorder, in the Journal Animal Welfare. The disorder is still largely unknown and has a negative effect on the health of both the people who suffer from it and the animals involved.
“This is the first step towards public recognition of this disorder, a disorder that constitutes a growing concern for government as it is becoming a serious problem for public health. There are still no standardized action protocols for intervention in these cases” states Paula Calvo, a researcher of the IMIM research group on anxiety, affective disorders and schizophrenia and of the “Cátedra Fundación Affinity Animales y Salud” (Affinity Foundation Chair for Animals and Health) of the Department of Psychiatry of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Currently, when a case is detected, the animals are removed but no attention is given to the person suffering the disorder. This person does not realise that his or her animals are in poor health and soon begins to hoard them again. Sometimes these animals are found at obvious and critical levels of malnutrition, dehydration and parasitic infestation, with illnesses or uncontrolled breeding, all in a very unhygienic space.
The researchers believe that this disorder has implications for mental health, animal welfare and public health and therefore that recognizing its presence in our society is the first step in identifying and detecting cases early and dealing with them in the most efficient possible way. As different sectors must mobilize when a case appears, such as animal protection, public health, public welfare, etc, the group works in conjunction with government, creating multidisciplinary action protocols.
This is the first study to provide data on this syndrome in Europe and it has been possible thanks to the relationships of the researchers with organizations dedicated to the protection of animals. This put them in contact with various cases of the disorder and aroused their interest in the issue. Seeing that there was a vacuum in Europe they decided to contact the National Association of Friends of Animals (ANAA) and to retrospectively analyze the cases that they had collected in their database between 2002 and 2011. They created a questionnaire for the experts who had participated in these cases and all the information that the organization had available was classified and standardized.
Until now all existing research on the issue has been carried out in the US, Canada and Australia, but with this study it has been demonstrated for the first time that this mental disorder also occurs in Europe and with similar characteristics. For the time being the data is not sufficient to know the percentage of the population which suffers from the disorder, nor to better understand the profile of those who hoard.
The above story is based on materials provided by IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
- P Calvo, C Duarte, J Bowen, A Bulbena, J Fatj. Characteristics of 24 cases of animal hoarding in Spain. Animal Welfare, 2014; 23 (2): 199 DOI:10.7120/096272184.108.40.206
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