Hoarding is a disorder in which individuals have difficulty disposing of items they think they need to save and/or they experience stress from the idea of having to discard items. It occurs in approximately two to 6 percent of the population and is more common among males than females. There are often emotional, physical, social, and financial effects of hoarding. Items commonly hoarded include: Newspapers, magazines, photographs, food clothing, paper and plastic bags. There may be piles of things throughout the house, resulting in cramped living conditions. When there is no more room in the house, clutter may be stored in the garage, yard, or storage units. Hoarding can range from mild to severe, depending upon how it affects an individual. The disorder typically emerges during teenage years (specifically from 11 to 15 years of age) but it is unlikely that it will be extreme enough to impair a teen’s life. As the person ages and collects more and more clutter, the disorder becomes harder to treat. More severe hoarding is typically seen in older adults. People with hoarding disorder save things for various reasons. They think they may need the items in the future, they don’t want to be wasteful, there is an emotional connection to the items, and there can be a feeling of safety when surrounded by saved items. The causes of hoarding are unknown. It is thought that people who hoard are typically indecisive, may have a family history of hoarding, and/or have experienced a stressful life event. There may be elements of perfectionism, procrastination, and distractibility. Hoarding can coincide with compulsive buying or compulsively acquiring things that are free. There is a difference between hoarding and collecting. Collectors typically display items with pride and wish to talk about their collections while people who hoard are often embarrassed and don’t want others to see their homes. Consequences of hoarding disorder include relationship problems, social problems, health and safety concerns (fires, tripping), isolation, and loneliness. Treatment options for hoarding disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychotropic medication. CBT focuses on confronting maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors associated with hoarding, management of emotional distress associated with disposing of items, and exposure to actively disposing of items and refraining from acquiring new objects. CBT approaches provide an approximately twenty-five percent improvement from baseline. People who have successfully participated in treatment may still experience symptoms. For an individual with severe symptoms or poor insight, the goal may be to reduce harmful consequences versus remission of the disorder. Treatment is difficult when there is a lack of insight because people who hoard may not see anything wrong with their behavior. They may see the problems as a lack of space rather than an inability to discard things. While they may realize their behaviors are troublesome to others, they do not find the behaviors to be problematic to themselves. New research has focused on the executive functioning area of the brain. A limited number of electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies have found consistent deficits in executive functioning, including problems-solving, attention, planning, and decision making. Hoarding disorder is often underreported and untreated. It has a significant effect on an individual’s and family’s well-being. Research on the causes and cures of hoarding disorder are increasing at a fairly rapid pace, likely due, at least partially, to the interest stirred from reality television shows. There are no known ways to prevent hoarding yet. Early treatment is encouraged when symptoms present to keep the disorder from worsening. Melinda Shaver was born and raised in Independence and returned to town two years ago to open a private psychology practice in the Professional Building. She earned her master’s degree in athletic administration and a doctoral degree in exercise science from Oklahoma State University and worked in the fitness field for many years before getting her master’s and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Argosy University with the goal of combining her background in fitness with the field of psychology to help individuals improve their mind, body and spirit. She can be contacted at (620) 926-1286.