I know I say this a lot, but I really should have reviewed this book right after reading, because details don’t always stick around long enough for me to remember to write about them. This book in particular was chock full of so many interesting details I know it would be impossible for me to convey most of them even if I’d written this review ten seconds after finishing. And it’s been a month and a half.
Randy O. Frost was a professor at Smith college when an undergraduate’s project on hoarding, which was believed to be a subset of obsessive compulsive disorder at the time, prompted him to pioneer the research field into hoarding as its own separate thing, with different causes and symptoms (and treatments). He and his co-author Gail Steketee (who he explains in the intro mostly helped him with research and compiling data, while he did the writing) are still the leading researchers in the field.
This book is part explanation of the causes of hoarding, its linkage to OCD, and parsing out of why hoarders do what they do, psychologically and biologically; and it is also part case history. One of the reasons the book is so interesting is that he uses specific cases histories for patients with varying types of hoarding to illustrate the points he is making. He weaves the story of their hoarding in with explanations of their behavior, and of hoarding itself. It is never jargony, but still maintains scientific credibility. In my opinion, it’s a book that scholars and pleasure readers alike will find worthwhile.
There was just so much I didn’t know about hoarding before I read this, like the previously mentioned connections with OCD (as of the writing of this book in 2010, there were theories about why so many people with OCD are also hoarders, but not all hoarders have OCD, and not all people with OCD are hoarders), and connections with ADHD as well. Even the story the book opens with, of the most famous hoarding case in New York history, is one I hadn’t heard before. And it’s all grounded in human stories. You really feel for each person he profiles, as he details just exactly how their hoarding has affected their lives.
My only “complaint” here would be that since this is a growing research field, new and exciting discoveries are presumably being made about hoarding as we speak, and the book was published waaaaay back in 2010, it’s probably already out of date. I hope they do an updated version sometime in the future, and that some of the lingering questions brought up in this book have some answers.
Note: Do not read or listen to the chapter on garbage hoarders if you are eating now, plan to eat soon, or have recently eaten. It is stomach churning stuff.