SINGAPORE - It is difficult for hoarders to change, said a psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health.
Dr Ng Lin Chieh, an associate consultant with the Department of Community Psychiatry, said: "From my professional experience, there is very little we can do to change hoarding behaviour."
He said that if a hoarder has a mental illness, an improvement may be possible if the underlying illness is treated.
"For example, for those individuals suffering from schizophrenia and who hear voices asking them to hoard, treatment of schizophrenia leads to a resolution of the voices, and the patient may show some improvement in their hoarding behaviour."
There are also hoarders who do not have any mental illness. They tend to attach a sentimental value to their belongings because they have difficulties making up their mind, said Dr Ng.
"They cannot decide what to throw and what not to. In the end, to avoid having to make a decision, they do not make any decision and so they hoard."
He said that those who had undergone great deprivation, such as during World War II, are also likely to be hoarders.
"They will hoard things to prepare for the next great catastrophe. Often, these hoarders are elderly and living alone. They may have suffered many losses in their lives that cause them to hoard."