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Obsessive-Compulsive Hoarding: Symptom Severity and Response to Multimodal Treatment

Sanjaya Saxena, M.D.; Karron M. Maidment, R.N.; Tanya Vapnik, Ph.D.; Gina Golden, Ph.D.; Tanya Rishwain, M.S.W.; Richard M. Rosen, M.D.; Gerald Tarlow, Ph.D.; and Alexander Bystritsky, M.D.


Background: Compulsive hoarding and saving symptoms, found in many patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are part of a clinical syndrome that has been associated with poor response to medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). We sought to determine whether patients with the compulsive hoarding syndrome had more severe symptoms and functional impairment than nonhoarding OCD patients and whether they would respond to intensive, multimodal treatment previously found to be effective for treatment-refractory OCD.

Method: We studied 190 consecutive patients with DSM-IV OCD treated openly for approximately 6 weeks with intensive CBT, medication, and psychosocial rehabilitation in a partial hospitalization program for severely ill OCD patients. Twenty of the 190 patients (11%) were identified as having the compulsive hoarding syndrome. All patients were assessed before and after treatment with the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS), Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A), and Global Assessment Scale (GAS). We compared the symptom severity and response to treatment of compulsive hoarders versus nonhoarding OCD patients.

Results: Compulsive hoarders were significantly older than nonhoarders (p<.001). Hoarders had significantly lower GAS scores and higher HAM-A scores than nonhoarders both before (p=.04) and after (p=.002) treatment, but had similar pretreatment YBOCS scores. Both groups improved significantly with treatment as assessed by YBOCS score (p<.001), but nonhoarders had significantly greater decreases in YBOCS scores than hoarders (p=.02).

Conclusion: While the compulsive hoarding syndrome appears to be a distinct, more disabling, variant of OCD that does not respond as robustly to treatment, it may still improve significantly with intensive, multimodal treatment tailored to its specific features and associated deficits.

(J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63:21-27)


Received Jan. 26, 2001; accepted Aug. 17, 2001. From the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, Los Angeles, Calif.

Dr. Rosen is deceased.

Supported by Career Development Award 1 K23 MH01694-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md. (Dr. Saxena).

In the spirit of full disclosure and in compliance with all ACCME Essential Areas and Policies, the faculty for this CME activity were asked to complete a full disclosure statement. The information received is as follows: Drs. Bystritsky, Golden, Saxena, Tarlow, and Vapnik; and Mss. Maidment and Rishwain have no significant commercial relationships to disclose relative to the presentation.

Reprint requests to: Sanjaya Saxena, M.D., UCLA OCD Research Program, UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, 300 UCLA Medical Plaza, Room 2229, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (e-mail: ssaxena@mednet.ucla.edu).