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Department of Psychology News

Psychology Professor Addresses Hoarding Disorder at Kent State Event

Posted Nov. 7, 2011

We’ve all had that cherished item we just couldn’t let go of; something that in its own way had significant value to us. But, where do we draw the line between keeping a few mementos here and there and developing a condition known as hoarding?

Dr. Randy Frost, professor of psychology at Smith College, discussed what is slated to become the newest mental disorder: hoarding, on Oct. 20 at Kent Hall. Kent State University’s Department of  Psychology  brought Frost to campus.

One of the hoarding cases he discussed involved a woman named Irene who has a case of moderate hoarding and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). According to Frost, when given a tour of her home, one might assume that the seemingly random mess about her home was just an abundance of worthless junk that simply needed to be thrown away, but to her this was her entire livelihood — organized and arranged exactly how she prefers.

“Irene organized her paper clippings every day for three hours, but the enormous pile never got smaller or better organized,” says Frost. “In addition to saving almost everything, she couldn’t seem to organize any of it.”

Frost discussed variations of this psychological disease, as well as potential cures and therapies for those victimized by the disorder. Currently, there are few known cases of hoarding in Kent, though it’s quite possible that there are many with the disorder.  Hoarders have a tendency to buy or collect compulsively and are often unable to refuse free things. Some have even resorted to stealing things they covet. 

Many in the past have tried to classify hoarding as a symptom of OCD, but recently, psychologists have reconsidered the severity of the disease, and it will be submitted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5 (DSM-V) as its own separate disorder.

Students felt Frost’s presentation was a useful and educational experience.

“It's astounding to see how something that was formerly looked at as a hobby has now been recognized as a mental health issue,” says Katelynn Komara, senior psychology major. The fact that hoarding will even be classified under its own category in the DSM-V really brings to life the severity of the unhealthy hobby.”

For help with psychological issues such as hoarding, visit Kent State’s Psychological Services Web page at www.kent.edu/uhs/Psych/index.cfm.