for people ages 50 years and up (full criteria)
Healthy Volunteers
healthy people welcome
at San Diego, California
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Catherine Ayers, PhD



Hoarding disorder (HD) is a chronic, progressive, and debilitating psychiatric condition that leads to devastating personal and public consequences, particularly for older adults. This confirmatory efficacy trial will advance our knowledge of the mechanisms of action in the treatment of HD as well as reduce symptom severity, disability, and community consequences.


Hoarding disorder (HD) is a chronic, progressive, and debilitating psychiatric condition that leads to devastating personal and community consequences, particularly for older adults. HD is defined by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions due to distress associated with discarding, urges to save, and/or difficulty making decisions about what to keep and what to discard. As a result, clutter accumulates and fills active living areas, preventing the normal use of space and resulting in distress and disability. Community epidemiological reports estimate the prevalence of clinically significant hoarding symptoms at 7% in individuals over age 60 and even higher rates in those over age 70. HD is the only neuropsychiatric condition that progresses in severity and population prevalence with age apart from dementia.

Inhibition and cognitive switching have been identified as key deficits in older adults with HD. These executive functioning areas are consistent with the RDoC cognitive control domain and particularly the goal selection, updating, representation, and maintenance subconstruct. Findings suggest that these deficits may contribute to the symptomatic expression of HD, degree of functional impairment, and modest responses to HD treatment. Furthermore, anticipatory and experiential fear and anxiety, consistent with the RDoC constructs of acute and potential threat, lead to sustained problems with discarding items and clutter accumulation. When these constructs are targeted, our group has produced clinically and statistically significant outcomes.

Consistent with NIMH strategic goal 3.1, to arrive at effective treatment approaches for unmet therapeutic domains in behavioral science, this project seeks to conduct the first confirmatory efficacy trial for older adults with HD. We propose a RCT comparing CREST to a case management control condition for 150 adults age 50 and older with HD. We are examining age as a moderator and will therefore include both midlife and late life participants. An evaluation of treatment outcome, including hoarding severity and functional outcomes, will be conducted at baseline (0 months), mid-treatment (3 months), end of treatment (6 months), 3-month (9 months) and 6-month follow-up (12 months). Participants will receive 26 weekly 60-minute individual sessions over the course of 32 weeks maximum (6-7.5 months). They will receive 50% in home and 50% office visits. We will examine factors that mediate improvement in CREST (improved inhibition/cognitive switching and reduction in fear/anxiety of discarding items) through physiological, behavioral, self-report, and paradigm assessments. Individual factors (e.g., age and other demographic factors, baseline cognitive control, baseline hoarding severity) and treatment factors (e.g., session attendance) will be evaluated as moderators. The specific aims include determining confirmatory efficacy of CREST, mechanisms of CREST effects, and moderators of CREST. If successful, this project would lead to an effectiveness trial in a real world setting.


Hoarding Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, older adult, executive dysfunction, hoarding, OCD, exposure therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, Cognitive Rehabilitation and Exposure/Sorting Therapy (CREST), Case Management


You can join if…

Open to people ages 50 years and up

  • adults age 50 and older
  • voluntary informed consent for participation
  • DSM-5 diagnosis of HD
  • HD as a primary, most severe diagnosis
  • stable on medications for at least 8 weeks

You CAN'T join if...

  • current psychosis or mania as measured by the Mini-International
  • current or history of any neurodegenerative disease
  • substance use disorder
  • current use of benzodiazepine medication
  • suicidality
  • current participation in exposure-based therapy


  • Guava Hall
    San Diego California 92161 United States

Lead Scientist at UCSD

  • Catherine Ayers, PhD
    Catherine Ayers, Ph.D., ABPP is a Section Chief at the VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), Professor in the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Department of Psychiatry, and faculty member in the San Diego State University (SDSU)/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She is the Chair of the San Diego County Older Adult Council.


accepting new patients by invitation only
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, San Diego
Study Type
Expecting 150 study participants
Last Updated