Summary: A new study reveals those with compulsive hoarding disorder assign emotional attachments to possessions as a way of compensating for a lack of emotional warmth during early development. Additionally, those with the disorder exhibit poor confidence in memory and cognitive skills.
Source: Flinders University.
Standard therapy for compulsive hoarding needs to unpack many factors that contribute to the problem.
This includes examining each person’s upbringing, early family history and understanding the way they think, according to Australian and US researchers.
Led by Flinders University Professor Mike Kyrios, who has been conducting this research over many years while previously working at the University of Melbourne, Swinburne University and the Australian National University, the paper on Hoarding Disorder assigns great significance to the emotional attachment that individuals place on possessions as a way of compensating for a lack of emotional warmth experienced in their early years.
“While different forces are at play in each individual case, recollections about the lack of emotional warmth experienced by participants with Hoarding Disorder distinguished them from those with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and healthy participants,” says Professor Kyrios, Executive Dean of the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work at Flinders University.
“As a consequence, by not having a strong sense of emotional belonging, the people who hoard cling to personal belongings, to mimic a heightened sense of security and control.
“The strong attachment to possessions compensates for their feelings of uncertainty or being threatened.
“In addition, a need to keep possessions in view compensates for poor confidence in their memory. They deal with fears about decision making by holding on to possessions even when the resulting clutter is detrimental to their quality of life.
“Therefore, beliefs about possessions and attachment to possessions was the strongest predictor of hoarding severity and needs to be targeted in psychological treatments.”
Professor Kyrios says these findings extend an understanding of the behavioural model of hoarding to include early developmental factors.
“It seem crucial to understand the range of factors that are associated with the development of hoarding problems,” Professor Kyrios says.
“From a clinical perspective, this knowledge could help us better understand who might be at risk for the development of the disorder and how to fine-tune treatments.”
Key messages for practitioners from the paper:
- The cognitive-behavioural model of hoarding disorder was examined
- The hoarding cohort exhibited poor confidence in memory
- The cohort showed greatest concerns about the consequences of forgetting
- They reported the lowest recollections of warmth in their family
- Lack of warmth in one’s family was a significant predictor predictor of hoarding severity.
Funding: James Kesby receives funding from the Queensland Government from an Advance Queensland Research Fellowship and from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Source: Flinders University
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Flinders University news release.
Original Research: Abstract for “The cognitive-behavioural model of hoarding disorder: Evidence from clinical and non-clinical cohorts” by M Kyrios, C Mogan, R Moulding, RO Frost, K Yap and DB Fassnacht in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. Published MArch 2018.
The cognitive-behavioural model of hoarding disorder: Evidence from clinical and non-clinical cohorts
The cognitive–behavioural model of hoarding disorder incorporates information processing difficulties, maladaptive attachment to possessions, erroneous beliefs about the nature of possessions, and mood problems as etiologically significant factors, although developmental experiences such as a compromised early family environment have also been proposed in an augmented model. This study examined the specificity and relevance of variables highlighted in the augmented cognitive–behavioural model. Various clinical participants (n = 89) and community controls (n = 20) were assessed with structured clinical interviews to verify diagnosis. Participants completed self‐report measures of hoarding severity, cognitions, meta‐memory, and early developmental experiences (e.g., memories of warmth and security in one’s family). Hoarding cohorts (with and without obsessive–compulsive disorder) reported poor confidence in memory, but relative to other groups (obsessive–compulsive disorder without hoarding disorder, anxiety disorders, and healthy controls), hoarding‐relevant cognitions, need to keep possessions in view, and concerns about the consequences of forgetting were significantly higher. Hoarding groups reported the lowest recollections of warmth in their family, although no differences were found between hoarding and non hoarding clinical cohorts for uncertainty about self and others. Nonetheless, clinical cohorts reported generally higher scores of uncertainty than healthy controls. When predicting hoarding severity, after controlling for age and mood, recollections of lack of warmth in one’s family was a significant predictor of hoarding severity, with hoarding‐related cognitions and fears about decision‐making being additional unique predictors. The study supports the augmented cognitive–behavioural model of hoarding, inclusive of the importance of early developmental influences in hoarding.