Cracking the codes of the new bible of mental disorders

The psychological condition known as ‘hoarding’ has gotten an upgrade -- big time. Over the weekend, members of the American Psychiatric Association approved a series of changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The psychological condition known as ‘hoarding’ has gotten an upgrade -- big time. Over the weekend, members of the American Psychiatric Association approved a series of changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM-5.

See, the DSM is basically the bible that the health industry uses to decide what is -- and what is not -- a mental disorder. When the newest manual is published next year, hoarding will now be its own condition…and that comes with rewards and risks.

Hoarders are pretty popular on cable shows like "Hoarding: Buried Alive." But in the world of health care, University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Mahendra Bhati says hoarding is a bit of an orphan condition.

 “A lot of people suffer from hoarding, but we have no medicine for. There is no established cure,” he says.

The inclusion of hoarding as its own condition -- no longer a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder -- will mean lots more attention.

“This is a starting point. And we need to really understand the basis of this condition. So that we can have a more refined appreciation and understanding of what this condition is and what causes it,” says Bhati.

The final version of the DSM-5 won’t be released until next spring. But researchers, drug companies and insurers now have plenty of incentive to take this condition more seriously.

Dr. Jeff Szymanski of the International OCD Foundation in Boston says the new DSM listing could help patients get treatment where they need it most…at home.

“With hoarding disorder, because the disorder is so about their environment, a therapist needs to be in that environment so they can begin to sort through all the clutter…that currently is not covered by most insurances,” he says.

Szymanski says it will now be easier to for patients to press insurance companies to cover those kinds of treatments.

Pharmaceutical companies will also be gearing up to offer solutions which critics warn may push more patients towards pills.

“Fewer and fewer psychiatrists are using things like therapy which has shown to be equally as effective and in some cases more effective than the medications that are much more frequently prescribed and given to patients with these conditions,” says Pennsylvania Prof. Bhati.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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