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by Fugen A. Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias
New Harbinger Publications, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Dec 10th 2004

Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding

I have often speculated that hoarding is a more prevalent problem that is generally recognized. One sees advertisements offering ways to help alcoholics, drug abusers, sex addicts, out-of-control gamblers, people who are chronically shy, and other forms of self-defeating behavior. But it seems I've known more people who have problems with hoarding than who had had those other troubles. One year, I shared a house with a woman who kept stacks of old newspapers in nearly every room, including the basement, with the project of trying to read them all. But of course the new newspapers arrived every day, and she wasn't able to throw out the old ones that frequently, so the piles just grew. I found it pretty hard to live with.

There was a documentary TV series in the UK a few years ago, A Life of Grime, about the task of a local council group that dealt with health problems in the community. One of the recurring characters was an old man, Mr. Trebus, who lived on his own in his house so full of trash and garbage that it was infested with rats. He would refuse to throw out anything and he went around the local streets and collected trash that other people discarded. Eventually the neighbors complained and his house was forcibly cleaned, which caused him considerable distress. The case of Mr. Trebus is one of the most extreme and saddest cases of hoarding but it is not that rare.

Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding is a short guide about this sort of problem, explaining the ways that it tends to interfere with sufferer's lives. It is a clearly written book, with short chapters, short sections, and plenty of exercises, and lists. It explains a broad range of treatments, both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic, and places special emphasis on cognitive behavioral therapy. It is an encouraging and optimistic book that assures the reader that the behavior can be stopped.

It is very hard to get hoarders to recognize that they have a problem. As with other compulsive behavior, people tend to be very attached to it, and intervening is frustratingly difficult. So there are certainly no promises that using this book will lead to significant change. Nevertheless, it is a start. There are not many books that focus solely on hoarding, and this one is backed up with a strong grasp of the scientific literature. The authors are all from the Bio-Behavioral Institute in Great Neck on Long Island, New York, and Fugen Neziroglu is affiliated with the Psychiatry Department at New York University Medical School. People suffering directly or indirectly from hoarding behavior will probably learn something useful from Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding and it is possible they might find a way to solve their problems.

 

2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.