Episode 59 - Dr. Gail Steketee: Too Much Stuff: Understanding and Treating Compulsive Hoarding

Monday, November 15, 2010, 9:02:52 AM

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In this episode, Dr. Gail Steketee, Professor and Dean of the School of Social Work at Boston University, discusses compulsive hoarding behavior. In addition to her scholarly work, Dr. Steketee has co-authored an accessible monograph about hoarding and hoarders in a way that will have us thinking about the "stuff" of our own lives.

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Average Rating: 4.7 stars (15 listener reviews )

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Average Rating: 5stars  hoarding podcast review, Tuesday, February 09, 2021

By Brittany :

I thought this was an overall interesting podcast to listen to. My whole life I have seen TV shows for hoarding and always was curious about the psychopathology behind it. I always thought it was associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I never knew it can be associated with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Growing up I have seen a little bit of hoarding characteristics in my sister such as collecting things she finds that would be considered garbage. Another thing that was interesting to learn about how this behavior can carry over into collecting animals in your own home to the point where it takes up space. It was interesting to hear that it is prevalent in people who have health problems. It also struck me that hoarding has different genetic linkages and brain scans than OCD.

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Average Rating: 5stars  hoarding podcast, Sunday, February 12, 2017

By Briana Brooks :

I really enjoyed the podcast with Dr. Gail Steketee. I found it to be extremely educational and eye opening. Compulsive hoarding is a topic I am not too familiar with and Dr. Steketee broke down the concepts and criteria for this disorder in a way where it was very understandable. I found it helpful when she explained the difference between collecting and hoarding and the overlap between the two. I never knew how prevalent of a disorder this was and I am curious to learn more to help clients in the future. It made me wonder what resources are available in Buffalo for those who are struggling with compulsive hoarding disorder.

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Average Rating: 5stars  understanding hoarding, Sunday, January 31, 2016

By Caitlin Kacalski :

This podcast caught my eye because I would not have associated hoarding with social work. It makes sense how the two are related and was very interesting to learn about. The difference between hoarding and collecting is something that I never thought of. People will often collect items and say something along the lines of "I'm like a hoarder," in a joking manner. This podcast helped to show that people who have a problem with hoarding are proud of their items and may feel as if they are collectors.

I found it interesting that there is no known relationship between animal hoarding and object hoarding. I always thought that people who hoard animals also had issues with hoarding "stuff", but it seems that the biggest problem is sanitation when it comes to animals. I also had no idea that around 4% of people hoard objects! That number is much larger than I would have thought.

It was interesting that those who have issues with hoarding often have medical issues. I wonder if keeping these objects help them to cope better with sickness? It did not surprise me that women are more likely to seek help for hoarding than men. It seems that over many disorders women are willing to ask for help where men want to try and resolve issues on their own.

I agree that the shows about hoarding have both pros and cons. It is important for viewers to realize that this is an actual problem and that it can be detrimental for those who suffer from hoarding. Unfortunately, these shows are often meant to pull in viewers and create misconceptions about hoarding. Not everybody who hoards lives in these horrible living conditions like the shows portray. Dr. Steketee made it clear that hoarding is like a sort of spectrum where everybody is impacted differently. No matter the level of hoarding it is important to treat the client with respect and attempt to understand their condition.

This Podcast introduced a lot of new information about hoarding!

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Average Rating: 5stars  hoarding, Monday, April 22, 2013

By Jamie Milligan :

This was very informational and interesting to listen to. Dr. Steketee shared a lot of useful information. I already knew that hoarding often lead to social isolation and broken relationships but was very surprised to hear that it could also lead to illness or death. I also couldn't believe that 1 in 4 people is considered a hoarder. Before listening to them speak on this podcast all I knew about hoarding came from the popular television shows. After learning the definitions of guilt-based and fear-based hoarding and taking into consideration the possible traumatic past of hoarders, I have a little more understanding of the people I see on TV. However, I also feel the shows only portray extreme cases that could deter hoarders with minimal hoarding issues from realizing they need help. This would not be considered helpful to the problem Dr. S described about how many hoarders do not reach out for help. - There is a clear difference between collecting and hoarding: collecting can slide over into hoarding. I like how she described how collecting represents an individuals interests (bottle caps, stamps, jewelry) and is often displayed, organized and valued (by self and others). Hoarders cannot make those distinctions. She also talked about animal hoarding and how the research is not clear on if its related to object hoarding. The definition of it is acquiring of a substantial number of animals that overwhelms the caregiving capacity of the owner, which is different from a breeder. It usually starts in small numbers then gradually outgrow the space. Most homes often need to be condemned after hoarding is stopped.

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Average Rating: 4stars  review on informative video/podcast on compulsive hoarding, Tuesday, January 17, 2012

By Anonymous :

I thought this was a very interesting video/podcast on what hoarding actually is and how it can be treated. I liked how Dr. Steketee compared collecting unique bottle caps and someone displaying them with pride as to someone just collecting any random bottle caps and keeping them in a trash bag where someone can't even display them. That was one of the differences that she explained about hoarding. I now understand better the process of what people go through when they have this disorder. They help them understand the problem and use certain skills to help these people stop hoarding before it gets too severe.

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Average Rating: 5stars  response to hoarding podcast, Tuesday, January 17, 2012

By Sarah Brunson :

This informative podcast is eye-opening to the world of hoarders. It is hard to understand and even comprehend how four percent of the population can live in homes filled to the brim with stuff. I like this podcast because it enables us to better understand what hoarders are going through and why this is happening to them. I was a little concerned for myself after hearing some the reasons for hoarding, such as fear of throwing something away that may later be of importance, or keeping items that may one day be useful so as to not be wasteful. I myself have saved items for these reasons although not to the point where it has gotten out of hand; it is easy to see how one can become a hoarder under these circumstances. The other shocking piece of information from the podcast was Dr. Steketee's analysis of popular television shows about hoarders, such as "Buried Alive". Instead of helping the problem, it is only made worse since the hoarder is never treated for their problem. The other sad thought is family members who most likely encourage their loved ones to participate in the show think it is what they need to help them. I think this shows how little the population knows about hoarders and obsessive compulsive disorder. More research needs to be done to learn what causes hoarding and what the best ways there are to treat it.

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Average Rating: 5stars  hoarding, Monday, January 16, 2012

By Jillian M. :

This Podcast caught my eye in seconds and kept me listening through the entire podcast. Its Amazing how you never heard about hoarding until the tv shows buried alive and hoarders came about or at least I know I didn't. I watch hoarders often and every time it amazes me. There is so much more behind this process than we see on tv. The people on the show don't clean up then their done. They go to therapy every week and talk about why they hoard things. You need to be aware of it. Dr. Gail Steketee was so interesting and kept my attention the full time. Everything she says has meaning and she knows exactly what she is talking about. Its amazing that 2-5% of the population are hoarders. I can see this percentage growing is the United States considering we are so concerned about products. Shopping can become addicting and this could be one of the many steps to becoming a hoarder even though according to Dr. Sketetee says more men are hoarders than females. Could this be because men aren't as likely to ask for help. Over all wonderful podcast and kept my attention the entire time!

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Average Rating: 5stars  compulsive hoarding review of podcast, Friday, October 28, 2011

By Amber C :

I found this podcast to be very educational and interesting. There were many things I thought I knew about hoarding which were untrue. I heard about hoarding through many of the new television shows that came out recently which is what intrigued me to watch this particular podcast. It shocked me to learn that the shows really are not very accurate in how they portray hoarding, or how it is dealt with. The shows focus on the extreme cases of hoarding when those can be very few and far in between. Also, I like how she talked about animal hoarding because we wonder about that "cat lady" we all know. Hoarding is a major problem especially for safety and sanitary conditions, and can be hazardous to people's health. I was also shocked to find out that about 4 percent of the population are hoarding, that's 1 out of every 25 people! One of the major facts that I learned from this podcast was that hoarding is not linked to obsessive compulsive disorder at all, and they are categorized as two different disorders. I always thought that hoarding was a form of obsessive compulsive disorder for whatever reason, maybe because it seems like a logical disorder to link it to. I was surprised to find out that there were biological reasons as well as different brain scan patterns in people with hoarding than in OCD. Overall, great podcast, I learned more than I thought I would and realized some of my thoughts and assumptions on the subject were inaccurate.

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Average Rating: 5stars  too much stuff, Monday, March 28, 2011

By Kaleighm :

I found this podcast to be extremely interesting and informative. Prior to listening, the only experience I have had in this particular area was through popular media’s sensationalization and never really gave any thought to its strategic intervention techniques. While hoarding is simplistically defined as ‘the inability to discard and excessive acquiring of items,’ treatment methods are much more detailed. The 2-5% prevalence rate of hoarding was quite alarming and brings to surface a very serious implication within the social work profession. The lack of generalizability in demographic information for hoarders suggests a difficulty in target identifiers and culturally competent interventions. Dr. Steketee provides a very insightful explanation regarding hoarding and the numerous complexities that are involved. The hoarding model described by Dr. Steketee provided an in-depth picture into the number of realms associated with hoarders and hoarding behaviors including both biological and personal histories. I personally view hoarding behaviors directly with western society and widespread materialism. Currently, western society places a large emphasis on materialism, and the acquiring of material goods, as a positive status symbol. Every day, more and more people fall into debt because of their preoccupation with item accumulation and increasing social status. It seems as though people exhibiting hoarding behaviors have literally embodied this materialistic phenomenon and are unable to stop. I am left wondering if this compulsion with acquiring items is similarly tied to capitalism and corporate agendas.

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Average Rating: 4stars  interesting and informative podcast, Saturday, March 26, 2011

By Elizabeth Constantine :

It was fascinating to listen to Dr. Steketee who, at the time of this podcast, was in the midst of comprehensive research about hoarding and appeared to be at the forefront of defining the issue of hoarding. Hoarding affects 15 million people, but is not well understood. The t.v. shows on hoarding have made people more aware of the issue, but are not providing a comprehensive picture of the whole spectrum of hoarding. This is a common problem when individuals get their information about any disease or issue through sensational television programs.
Dr. Steketee provided a thorough review of the issue of hoarding, explaining the difference between hoarding and collecting, and covering assessments and treatments. Dr. Steketee provided an excellent roadmap for treatment that included motivational interviewing and skills training where the client was taught to distinguish between items worth keeping and those that are not. This skills training would also include helping clients to resist the temptation to continue to accumulate items. The treatments presented all seemed logical and necessary to the treatment of a hoarder; they were explained clearly in the podcast.
Additionally, Dr. Steketee cited several resources for people who could do an onsite inspection, including first response workers. She mentioned tips such as workers should address areas that are dangerous to the individual first and avoid statements like “how can you live like this.” The tips she shared were helpful.
The author also discussed the issue of animal hoarding, which I had never heard of and was also a form of hoarding. Dr. Steketee explained the difference between someone who owns a lot of animals and an animal hoarder. Hoarders could no longer take care of all of their animals properly. An animal hoarder’s home often had a fair amount of squalor because the owners were overwhelmed by the needs of all of the animals.
Overall, it was an interesting and informative podcast.

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Average Rating: 5stars  very informative!, Saturday, March 12, 2011

By Anonymous :

This podcast is a very organized, pertinent and informative episode. Kendall directs with well-ordered questions. Steketee gives clear responses that are useful to both the practitioner and the general public. She directs the listener to a variety of further resources, all easily found in online bookstores.
I appreciated the information on how to identify a person with a hoarding problem and the difference between such a person and a collector. I was surprised to learn of the prevalence of this problem, around 4% of people may be hoarders. It was interesting to learn of an actual assessment tool, the Clutter Image Rating.
Learning about treatment was very eye-opening. The do’s and don’ts of approaching and attempting to help a hoarder were very useful. The tendency of wanting to jump in and remove the clutter and offer an immediate fix is probably pretty common. Learning that it may have a genetic factor and that it is an issue in the brain was important. Finding out that treatment usually takes a year or more was surprising.
I have experience with a hoarder. My initial reaction was to “clean” for him and think I was being helpful. Inevitably, the hoarding would continue. I can now understand the fear-based, “I may need that” behaviors talked about in this podcast. I was surprised to learn that there are feelings of grief and loss associated with the removal of the “stuff,” but when she paralleled the learning process to a recovering alcoholic learning to walk by a bar and not go in, I remembered the grief and loss associated with a recovering alcoholic losing the “friend” in alcohol.
I was encouraged to hear that steps are being taken to include hoarding in the DSM-V. I was very surprised to learn that, while a much higher percentage of women with this problem eventually get help, a much higher percentage of men actually have this problem. I was interested to learn that this problem has to do with specific executive functioning in the brain.

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Average Rating: 5stars  what a resourceful podcast!, Thursday, March 10, 2011

By Helen O'Brien Brodnick :

What a resourceful podcast!
This podcast was extremely educational regarding the issue of hoarding. I have no experience with this condition, and found Dr. Steketee’s conversation about skills training, and organizational techniques quite useful. I valued her discussion about treatment intervention at home and in the office. For instance, I was fascinated when she mentioned having a hoarder clear off a corner of their kitchen table into a box and brings it into the office for analysis. What a great method to use with this type of client! It is good for the client to talk about their feelings regarding the objects history, and what their emotional attachment is with the objects. We, as clinicians can then help guide them with the purpose and value of each object.
I had only seen hoarding on current television programs and never realized that 15 million Americans suffer with hoarding tendencies. I Agree with Dr Steketee, that current TV shows are good to educate the public, yet don’t accurately portray a moderate hoarder or someone with beginning stages of hoarding. TV sensationalizes severe hoarders so it would be difficult for someone like me to identify a client with moderate hoarding tendencies.
I also liked that at several times throughout the conversation, Dr. Steketee mentioned various books, websites, self help tools, solutions, and guides to help clinicians, first responders, patients and families. I now have many resources to go with future clients.
Dr Steketee also had great advice for first responders, not to blurt out negative comments when walking into a home of a hoarder, and to be aware and mindful of what you say when faced with a hoarding situation. This is also a great reminder to all who work with hoarders, to remain non judgmental, as our opinions do not matter. What does matter is learning about their behaviors and what we can do to help them overcome them.

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Average Rating: 5stars  response to , Sunday, January 30, 2011

By Lauren Semisa :

Dr. Gail Steketee provided a nice background of compulsive hoarding, presenting criteria and treatment information that is often overlooked on TV shows that have recently become well known, such as Hoarding and Buried Alive. It was interesting to hear a professional prospective on both the positive and negative points of these TV shows. Dr. Steketee points out that although these shows raise public awareness of this widespread disorder, they may be portraying the long and rigorous treatment process lightly, by simply clearing out the home of an individual diagnosed as a hoarder. I found it particularly interesting to learn that women make up the majority of those who receive help for compulsive hoarding, however the bulk of hoarders are actually men who are not seeking help. This podcast was particularly helpful to professionals since Dr. Steketee provided a nice background of the different treatments that are used when helping a compulsive hoarder, including motivational interviewing, both attentional and organizational skills training, along with building problem solving and decision making skills. I would recommend this podcast to anyone interested in understanding, assessing, and treating compulsive hoarding.

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Average Rating: 4stars  hoarding, Sunday, January 30, 2011

By Jennifer Trenchard :

This podcast gave an insightful glimpse into the life of people with a hoarding disorder as well as the professionals who aim to help them. Dr. Steketee provided a brief explanation behind the various forms of treatment and help a person with a hoarding disorder may receive. She also explained the differences in the types of clients and how they will view help by the way they were referred to treatment. Dr. Steketee offered simple explanations for a few incorrect common myths about hoarding. For example many people believe that hoarding comes from obsessive compulsive disorder, which is not true. Dr. Steketee explains the biological and methodological differences between the two disorders. She also explained the need for well educated and informed professionals when attempting to assist someone with hoarding. Dr. Steketee emphasized greatly the damage that can be done when someone who does not understand the disorder reacts in a judgmental or condemning way. Overall this podcast gave a very informative brief overview of the hoarding disorder.

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Average Rating: 4stars  exploring hoarding behaviors, Saturday, January 29, 2011

By Cait Kingston :

Hoarding is a disorder that has recently been brought to the public’s attention in the form of television shows meant to “shock and awe” viewers, and Dr. Sketetee has given a well-rounded explanation of what hoarding entails and the purpose of the behavior to those who engage in it. Hoarding has been defined in this podcast as difficulty discarding objects, which leads to excessive clutter in the home that interferes with the person’s ability to use the space in appropriate ways. While this much information could be gleaned from television shows on the subject, Dr. Sketetee delves further to identify different types of hoarding and the reasons why people hoard. Dr. Sketetee was also informative not only in differentiating between different types of hoarding, but also noting the distinctions between hoarding and other behaviors, such as being a collector and those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. After describing populations likely to be affected, Dr. Sketetee describes assessment tools used by clinicians in diagnosing the behavior, and what treatment plans can entail. Treatment for hoarding involves the use of motivational interviewing for ambivalent clients, skills training, and direct exposure. Dr. Sketetee details how direct exposure is useful both in home, to work on sorting through the clutter, and outside the home, used in places where the client usually would acquire more objects. Dr. Sketetee also mentions resources available, both online and books, for family members of hoarders, hoarders themselves, and for first responders in the event of an emergency in the home. This podcast is very informative on hoarding behaviors and aids the listener in identifying with the person who has hoarding behaviors, in contrast to popular television shows that tend to make an “other” out of the person with the hoarding behaviors.

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