New research has found that certain antidepressants work well to reduce symptoms of compulsive hoarding.
It’s very common to have a collection of some kind — acquiring and retaining nonessential objects is nearly universal and found throughout history. But some individuals develop abnormal hoarding behavior. Compulsive hoarding involves collecting or failing to get rid of vast numbers of objects to the point where they cause significant clutter and problems moving around the house, cooking, cleaning or sleeping.
Compulsive hoarders often buy much more than they need, and feel severe anxiety at the thought of discarding these objects. Hoarding is linked to indecisiveness, disorganization and procrastination, and many diseases such as anorexia, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is estimated to affect up to 2 million people in the U.S.
Compulsive hoarding is closely associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but may be a separate disorder. It is also related to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and impulse control disorder, but compulsive hoarders may show no other symptoms of these conditions.
In previous research studies, patients have not responded well to serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) medications often given to people with OCD, but a team from the University of California, San Diego decided to directly test these drugs on hoarders.
Sanjaya Saxena, M.D., and colleagues recruited 79 OCD patients, of whom 32 of had compulsive hoarding syndrome. All participants received paroxetine (Paxil) alone for a mean of 80 days. Both groups “improved significantly with treatment” when tested on OCD symptoms, depression, and anxiety.
“There were no significant differences between groups in the proportions of patients who completed or responded to treatment,” the team reported, adding that hoarding symptoms improved as much as other OCD symptoms.
This suggests that SRI medications are effective for compulsive hoarding, the researchers concluded, and they called for further trials of SRI drugs for this condition.