“It was difficult to even get through the door”
A chaotic home greeted Volen Ivanov when he visited a person suffering from hoarding disorder for the first time. He is now one of the few people conducting research into this disorder.
“Five years ago, I was going to my first meeting with a person who displayed all the signs that they were suffering from hoarding disorder. I followed my supervisor to a two-storey house and rang the doorbell. When the person opened the door, we saw immediately that the hall was crammed with a huge number of different things. This is often a characteristic of someone with hoarding disorder, they save everything possible, without there being a specific theme. It was difficult here to even get in, but we were able to find a couple of free spots on a sofa to sit on.
The person soon began to tell stories, there was a memory associated with each and every one of the objects. Suddenly, another person appeared from behind all the mess and began talking to us. I never worked out who this was or what the person was doing there. Even though this was somewhat unique, it gives you an idea about people with hoarding disorder, many of whom live a very chaotic life.
I think that many of us have saved something that is of great significance to us. But what becomes problematic for people suffering from hoarding disorder is that they find it very hard to throw things away. In time, they collect so many things that it has a drastic impact on their lives.
The meeting in that house gave me a greater understanding of people with hoarding disorder; they often realise that they have a problem, but find it very difficult to do anything about this. Through my research, I hope to understand more about the causes of hoarding disorder. I have been given the chance to contributing to an area that is actually somewhat unexplored. What we are learning today will be extremely valuable in the future.”
Occupation: Psychologist and doctoral student at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet.
Text: Viktor Karlsson, first published in the magazine Medicinsk Vetenskap number 4, 2016.