Hoarding symptoms in patients on a geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit

Stein, D. J. ; Laszlo, B. ; Marais, E. ; Seedat, S. ; Potocnik, F. (1997)

CITATION: Stein, D. J. et al. 1997. Hoarding symptoms in patients on a geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit. South African Medical Journal, 87(9):1138-1140.

The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za


Background. While collecting may be a normal behaviour, hoarding is a symptom of various psychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Although anecdotal reports suggest that hoarding is not uncommon in geriatric psychiatry populations, its psychopathological correlates in such samples have not been well characterised. Methods. The presence of clinically significant hoarding symptoms was screened for in 100 consecutive patients in a geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit. Both patient and collateral histories were obtained. When hoarding symptoms were present, a detailed history of their phenomenology was obtained by means of a structured questionnaire and the response of hoarding symptoms to treatment during hospitalisation was monitored. Results. Clinically significant hoarding was found in 5/100 subjects. Four of these 5 patients met DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia (paranoid subtype), with onset of symptoms coinciding with increased symptoms of dementia. The fifth patient met criteria for bipolar disorder (manic episode), also had symptoms of dementia, and had a lifelong history of hoarding. Hoarding behaviours responded to antipsychotic treatment in 3 of the 5 patients. Conclusions. A history of hoarding may be useful in many psychiatric patients, but psychopathological correlates of this symptom are likely to vary with age. In a geriatric psychiatry inpatient population hoarding was associated not with OCD or OCPD, but rather with paranoid schizophrenia and increasing symptoms of dementia. Dopamine blockers appeared useful in decreasing hoarding in some patients, raising interesting questions about the neurobiology of this symptom.

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