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Recent House Fires Focus Attention On Hoarding Disorder

Collections of records, posters and Disney toys are just some of the items contained in Adam Chrin's apartment in New York, March 23, 2016. Chrin, a native of Paris who worked as a teacher and in other jobs, said his hoarding problems began decades ago after his mother’s death and a series of financial failures.
Associated Press
Collections of records, posters and Disney toys are just some of the items contained in Adam Chrin's apartment in New York, March 23, 2016. Chrin, a native of Paris who worked as a teacher and in other jobs, said his hoarding problems began decades ago after his mother’s death and a series of financial failures.

Recent House Fires Focus Attention On Hoarding Disorder
Recent House Fires Focus Attention On Hoarding Disorder GUEST: Michelle Carcel, clinical psychologist and board member, San Diego Psychological Association

Two San Diego structures described by authorities as quarter houses have gone up in flames in recent week. One house is in Bonita and the other in Normal Heights. Two women were found dead after a fire in Mission Hill that destroyed a ham and fire fire said it exhibited semi-hoarder conditions. The reason why people accumulate mountains of stuff is complex but the result is easy to spot and when you suspect there is a hoarder home in your neighborhood, does it become a public safety issue to say something? Joining me is the clinical psychologist and board member of the psychological Association. Michelle, welcome to the program.Thank you for having me.Psychiatrist recognizing a condition known as hoarding disorder and it is more than collecting a lot a step. How is it identified ?It is complex. The three categories stations with classic profile of a quarter is the acquisition of items meaning that you see a person who acquires a lot of items and has a compulsive collection of items and the second component is a real difficulty getting rid of or discarding items. That is where anxiety and problems arise. The last is organization of the items, unable to functionally use their home because these things are in the way.How does this start? Does it develop over time ?What we see is the majority of the people -- we have and arrangements of 3% to 6% having hoarding disorder but they are primarily older adults from 55 to 94 years old. It can appear in children as well. We have seen cases where they are as young as five years old starting these behaviors. It is hard to categorize that in this type of system apology. Become significant where it starts is in the mid 30s and goes into this older adult population. The key component is starting the acquisition of things and collecting of things and what we consider clutter but to a more severe degree.Have you been in many of the houses of your patients who suffer from hoarding disorder ?I have been in a few homes. I can tell you that it is quite impacting. The biggest thing we see is there is dysfunction. There is not an ability to use the different rooms in the home. There is piles and piles of items all over. The most common is newspapers, magazines items like that at 10 to you and I be something that would not be relevant or useful or functional but to a quarter, it absolutely is. It is a different mindset.Some hoarding situations I understand are worse than others. How bad does it get?It can get quite severe. Usually, we see from mild all the way to extreme and more severe. The more extreme, you will see people become recluse. They stay in their come and they isolate. We see OCD as part of it and anxiety as part of it and depression. A person with more severe hoarding tends to have more other symptoms and things that affect and can be quite difficult to function and there is a lot of impairment.How is it treated?We find a community approach to hoarding has shown the most positive result, especially with seniors that stay in account. That can involve nurses, social workers, support groups and individual treatments with mental health providers coming to the home and bringing them out to group settings and group therapy. A cognitive behavioral focus is very important. We have seen great results with this where there is a decrease in hoarding symptoms and symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is a thought process where we see decisions and impairment in the thinking of a person who has hoarding disorder and we work on getting them to wrecking nice that distorted patterns and attachments and slowly decreasing that desire for acquisition and difficulty with discarding items.It is possible that people listening know someone who seems to have a hoarding disorder or know of a house in a neighborhood that looks like stuff is hoarded. Can people do anything to help ?One thing you do not want to do is you do not want to approach a family member or someone that you know or care about asking or telling them that you are willing to help take things out of their environment and clean up for them. That is not the issue. This is a symptom that we are looking at. This gets complex. A lot of times a hoarder feels overwhelmed in the chaos. They are avoiding dealing with the surmounting piles of stuff by us approaching them to clean it up for them, it makes them feel worse about themselves and brings on anxiety because they are not dealing with distorted thinking. A big way we can help is sitting down and having a conversation and try to align ourselves the person and getting a feel that they can recognize that this is a problem and bring that so they can acknowledge it on the road and it is causing me to have difficulty and impairment in my life. At that point, you can introduce solutions like a community focused approach, having a professional. The idea is to have a therapist or someone in the adult community who works with this population come in and gently start working with them to recognize patterns and start discarding possessions.I have been speaking with Trenton who is a clinical psychologist. Michelle, thank you.Thank you.

Two house fires in the last month were declared by fire officials as hoarding situations.

One fire was in Bonita at the beginning of August and the other was in Normal Heights at the end of July.

Clinical psychologist Michelle Carcel said the three characteristics in the profile of person who is a hoarder are the acquisition of items, a difficulty getting rid of or discarding items and inability to organize items.

Carcel said 3 to 6 percent of the population have hoarding disorder.

Carcel joined Midday Edition Wednesday to talk about hoarding disorder and the treatment of the disorder.