Hoarding Disorder May Appear Different In Teens

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Hoarding disorder is widely thought of as a condition found in older adults, after time and their inability to discard things build up around them until it chokes their ability to function. However, there are signs that hoarding may start to develop at much younger ages. However, hoarding symptoms may not look the same in teenagers as they do in adults, researchers reported during the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting this week in New York.

Hoarding Disorder

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The tell-tale sign of hoarding disorder is thought to be a significantly cluttered living space filled with objects that would normally be discarded. However, teens who show the symptoms of hoarding haven’t had the time to collect as many things as adults, said Volen Ivanov, psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Ivanov suggested the lack of objects could be due to lack of time to accumulate objects, but it also “could be due to a limit in freedom.” Kids still living at home aren’t as free to buy or collect objects as adults with considerably more independence can. However, Ivanov also worries the distinction could be due to hoarding growing worse over time.

It is widely believed that hoarding disorder can be exacerbated by particularly traumatizing events such as the loss of a loved one, which leads Ivanov to suggest “maybe it takes a little bit of time before life takes its toll on these youngsters.”

It is important to mention that a messy room or small collection of a specific type of object are more likely traits of being a kid rather than signs of hoarding. Hoarding disorder or compulsive hoarding goes beyond collecting objects until individuals accumulate massive amounts of items such s newspapers, household items, and clothing. Not only does the compulsion hamper the ability to live function, but hoarding can lead to living in severely unhygienic environments.

Ivanov and his colleagues examined 8,500 Swedish adolescents born between 1994 and 1995. In one study published by Ivanov last year, he found that 2 percent of this adolescent group showed symptoms of hoarding. The researchers observed 21 of the individuals who had trouble parting with possessions regardless of value. However, when the researchers saw their living spaces and personal rooms, none of the youths showed the typical scene of extreme clutter generally associated with hoarding.

This causes Ivanov to believe that either hoarding is a disorder that does not fully manifest until adulthood, or we may need to reconsider the criteria used to diagnose the disorder.

“We know that at least in adults there is a clear genetic component, and there is also an environmental component,” Ivanov says. But beyond that, “we don’t know that much about this condition.”

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