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Keywords:

  • DSM-5;
  • hoarding disorder;
  • obsessive compulsive disorder;
  • clutter;
  • diagnosis, assessment

Background

Clutter impeding the normal use of living spaces is a landmark feature of hoarding disorder (HD) but can also be present in other conditions. The assessment of clutter ideally requires home visits, although such assessments are sometimes not feasible. This study examined whether photographs from patients’ homes can assist in the diagnostic process.

Methods

Thirty-two professionals with experience with hoarding cases were shown pictures from the inside of 10 houses and asked to decide whether the house belonged to a person with HD, a person with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or a healthy collector. Participants also rated different features of the room appearing in each picture (overall amount of possessions, tidiness, functionality, number of different classes of items, and cleanliness).

Results

Sensitivity for the HD and collectors’ pictures was high, whereas sensitivity for the OCD pictures was substantially lower. Specificity was high for all groups. Rooms belonging to HD individuals were rated as significantly more cluttered, more untidy, less functional, containing a higher number of different classes of items, and being less clean than the rooms from the remaining groups.

Conclusions

Photographs may be used to assist clinicians in determining the presence of clinically significant levels of clutter in the event a home visit is not feasible. Although differential diagnosis will usually not be possible from photographs alone, examination of certain characteristics of the environment might provide useful diagnostic clues. Combined with a thorough psychopathological interview, the use of photographs may increase the clinician's confidence in the diagnosis of HD. Depression and Anxiety 00:1-6, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.