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The Psychiatric Times, They Are A-Changin'

A recently published article that examines the psychological aspects of animal hoarding also signals new recognition for this disorder

A recently published article that examines the psychological aspects of animal hoarding also signals new recognition for this disorder

While animal hoarding (or "collecting") is a well-known phenomenon among animal care and control professionals, this subject has remained largely unexplored in psychiatric literature. Despite its psychological underpinnings, the study of hoarding has most often been confined to fields directly related to animal advocacy.

One model designates animal hoarding as an early sign of dementia; another likens it to a form of addiction akin to substance abuse.

An article in the April 2000 issue of the Psychiatric Times indicates that may be changing. Written by the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, a team of people representing disciplines as diverse as social work and veterinary medicine, the article explores animal hoarding as a psychological disorder. Its publication in a psychiatric journal is seen as a great step toward gaining greater recognition of this problem.

Summarizing the findings of previous studies, the authors describe several "psychiatric models" that can be used as a basis for comparison to other disorders. One model designates animal hoarding as an early sign of dementia; another likens it to a form of addiction akin to substance abuse; and a third model theorizes that a hoarder may be unable to establish close human relationships because she was deprived of attention from parents during childhood. The authors also discuss the similarities between the psychologies of those who hoard animals and those who hoard inanimate objects.

To read more about animal hoarding research, see the July-August 1999 and May-June 2000 issues of Animal Sheltering. You can also read a two-part series about investigating hoarding cases published six years ago in Shelter Sense.

Most people who have been involved in the prosecution of a case against an animal hoarder know that recidivism is likely; all too frequently hoarders will relocate and begin collecting again. "To date, no research has addressed strategies for resolving cases of animal hoarding,"the authors note. "What is clear is that adjudication of cases rarely alters the behavior. Until models for this behavior are established and tested, our understanding of this problem will be limited."

The authors suggest that further research into the resemblance between animal hoarding and other psychological disorders may lead to therapeutic or pharmacological treatment for hoarders.

For the full text of the Psychiatric Times article, go to www.psychiatrictimes.com and click on the April 2000 issue.


 

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