Conference Coverage

Adult ADHD? Screen for hoarding symptoms



– Clinically meaningful hoarding symptoms are present in roughly one in four adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Sharon Morein-Zamir, PhD, reported at the annual congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Dr. Sharon Morein-Zamir is a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Sharon Morein-Zamir

Her message to her fellow clinicians: “Nobody tends to ask about hoarding problems in adult ADHD clinics. Ask your ADHD patients carefully and routinely about hoarding symptoms. Screen them for it, ask their family members about it, and see whether it could be a problem contributing to daily impairment,” urged Dr. Morein-Zamir, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England.

The clinician must broach the subject, because hoarding often is characterized by lack of insight.

“Patients don’t complain about it. You’ll have family members complain about it, neighbors complain about it, maybe social services, but the individuals themselves often don’t think they have a problem. And if they acknowledge it, they don’t seek treatment for it. So you really need to actively ask about the issue. They won’t raise it themselves,” she said.

Hoarding disorder and ADHD are considered two separate entities. But her study demonstrated that they share a common link: inattention symptoms.

“Hoarding and inattention – difficulty in focusing and so forth – go together,” the psychologist continued.

Indeed, one of the reasons why hoarding disorder is no longer grouped with obsessive-compulsive disorder in diagnostic schema is that inattention symptoms are not characteristic of OCD.

Dr. Morein-Zamir presented a cross-sectional study of 50 patients in an adult ADHD clinic and 46 age- and sex-matched controls. A total of 22 of the ADHD patients were on methylphenidate, 15 on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, 6 on amphetamine, and 7 were unmedicated.

Participants were assessed for hoarding using two validated measures well-suited for screening in daily practice: the Saving Inventory–Revised (SIR) and the Clutter Image Rating (CIR). Clinically meaningful hoarding symptoms – a designation requiring both a score of at least 42 on the SIR and 12 on the CIR – were present in 11 of 50 adult ADHD patients and none of the controls.

The group with clinically meaningful hoarding symptoms differed from the 39 ADHD patients without hoarding most noticeably in their more pronounced inattention symptoms as scored on the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS): a mean score of 32.8, compared with 28.8 in ADHD patients without clinically important hoarding. In contrast, the two groups scored similarly for hyperactivity/impulsivity on the patient-completed 18-item ASRS, as well as for depression and anxiety on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS).

Within the ADHD group, only inattention as measured on the ASRS predicted hoarding severity on the SIR. In a multivariate regression analysis controlling for age, sex, hyperactivity/impulsivity on the ASRS, and DASS scores, inattention correlated strongly with all of the key hoarding dimensions: clutter, excessive acquisition, and difficulty discarding. Hyperactivity/impulsivity showed a modest correlation with clutter but not with the other hoarding dimensions.

Dr. Morein-Zamir observed that, while the last 3 or so years have seen booming interest in the development of manualized cognitive-behavioral therapy strategies for hoarding disorder, it’s not yet known whether those tools will be effective for treating high-level hoarding symptoms in patients with ADHD.

She reported having no financial conflicts regarding her study, which was funded by the British Academy.

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