To the compulsive hoarder, there seems to be no problem with the hoarding behavior. That's part of the disorder. But if you or someone you know suffers from an intolerable, life-changing urge to collect things, chances are there is a problem.
Because hoarding is a fairly recently recognized disorder, research in effective treatments is only starting to pick up. Some methods, though, have shown notable success, including medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on pinpointing the cognitive (thought-based) causes of compulsive hoarding, typically the roots of anxiety, and then slowly changing the behavior. It can take months or years, and requires great dedication to the process of recovery, but it can ultimately help a hoarder to let go of the possessions that are interfering with a healthy life.
Therapy is often combined with medication, which can help maximize results. The current pharmaceuticals used to treat hoarding are the ones that have been found to help patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), namely SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) and other antidepressants.
Compulsive hoarding is not, at the moment, well understood in the mental health community, and it can be a difficult illness to treat. The best way to increase the chances of overcoming a hoarding problem is to catch it in its early stages: If you see signs in yourself, or you suspect someone you love might be headed down a dangerous path, reach out. Hoarding is not about laziness or sloppiness or being a "gross" person. It's a manifestation of a deeper emotional problem, and immediate attention can help nip it in the bud.
For more information on hoarding and related topics, look over the links on the next page.