Gregory Chasson, assistant professor of psychology at Towson University, explains this condition.
As an Assistant Professor at Towson University and a Maryland licensed psychologist, Dr. Chasson specializes in the nature and treatment of high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder (OCSDs; e.g., obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding disorder). As an early career investigator, he currently spearheads a research lab that focuses on ASDs, OCSDs, and the nature of their overlap. As an undergraduate, Dr. Chasson obtained several years of clinical and research experience at the Koegel Autism Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a Direct Care Staff for adolescents with severe autism spectrum disorders at the Devereux Foundation. While receiving his Ph.D. in clinical psychology (with an emphasis in Child/Family and minor in Data Analysis) from the University of Houston (UH), he served as the Research Coordinator for the Texas Young Autism Project and provided discrete trial training to toddlers with ASD. During his training, he received clinical and research experience in several settings, including the Menninger Clinic/Baylor College of Medicine, as well as Department of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), both of which are training institutions of Harvard Medical School. At the UH Victims’ Resource Institute, Texas Young Autism Project, Menninger Clinic’s OCD Treatment Program, and OCD Institute at McLean Hospital, he was intimately involved in treatment outcome research. At MGH, he directed a multimillion-dollar prospective, longitudinal study of children with obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions (including ASD traits), a study that required coordinating dozens of staff.
Dr. Chasson has extensive training in and experience with data analyses. He is the regular instructor for a two-course sequence of graduate level data analysis and research design. Dr. Chasson provides statistics consultation to colleagues in and outside of the university and has served as principal data analyst on a variety of published peer-reviewed papers (e.g., Chasson, Vincent, & Harris, 2008). He received a graduate school minor in Psychological Statistics and Data Analysis and has published peer-reviewed papers on quantitative topics (e.g., Chasson & Garnaat, 2010). Dr. Chasson will be serving as a methodologist and statistician on the current project.
What exactly is compulsive hoarding? Imagine this. Envision your most prized, sentimental possession. Maybe a trophy from childhood, a love letter, a wedding dress or your comic book collection, something that you really care about. Now imagine throwing that into a metal trashcan, dousing it with gasoline, and burning it to ash. Feeling anxious, sad, or perhaps even angry? Now sit with those thoughts and feelings for a second. What you are experiencing is exactly how individuals that hoard feel when you ask them to toss out their possessions. The difference between a person that compulsive hoards and someone that doesn’t is that individuals that hoard tend to experience things more frequently, more intensely, and they experience it with possessions that other people usually find valueless and meaningless like newspapers, egg cartons or broken appliances.
Hoarding is a psychiatric condition that’s characterized by four main features:
Acquisition difficulties. People that hoard tend to acquire things at a much higher clip than other people.
They have trouble discarding things. And those two things lead to the third feature which is
Living spaces are so filled with possessions that it’s a fire hazard, a tripping hazard, or it might lead to pest infestations.
The fourth characteristic is that accumulation of stuff causes significant distress or impairment to the self or others.
Hoarding is actually far more common than we originally imagined. Four percent of the population seems to experience meaningful hoarding symptoms. To put that in perspective, that’s six times more prevalent than autism spectrum disorders, which seems to be getting a lot more attention. And it’s about half as prevalent as diabetes mellitus, which by most accounts is the modern epidemic.
Hoarding is common. Hoarding is debilitating. If you suspect that you have compulsive hoarding, or someone you love experiences compulsive hoarding, please seek professional help from a cognitive behavior therapist who specializes in hoarding.