Symptoms of hoarding have been studied in relation to obsessive-compulsive (OCD) behavior, but some professionals believe that hoarding should be listed as its own unique condition in the upcoming DSM-V. People who exhibit hoarding behavior acquire items excessively and obsessively, regardless of how this behavior affects them financially, physically, or mentally. They have strong emotional ties to seemingly insignificant items and become very distressed when they are forced to part with their possessions. Changing the behavior and belief system of a person who hoards is challenging for clinicians. Therefore, this foundation of beliefs and behaviors should be further examined to determine whether hoarding warrants its own classification, and also to expand intervention techniques. Kiara R. Timpano of the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami sought to gather insight into the processes that determine hoarding behavior using a community sample of 2,501 adults and two other samples of 1,649 young adult college students.
Timpano assessed each sample based on the person’s beliefs surrounding hoarding and his or her behaviors with respect to acquiring and discarding items. The results revealed that among the participants with hoarding characteristics, symptoms varied greatly from one participant to the next and appeared to be dimensional in nature. In particular, the hoarding exhibited by the participants was more directly linked to an accumulation of behaviors and beliefs rather than to the depth of those attributes. In other words, the quantity of the characteristics had a larger effect on hoarding than the quality of the beliefs and behaviors associated with acquiring or discarding.
The results suggest that hoarding symptoms should not be gauged using specific thresholds, but rather should be guided by those markers. “Our data recommend against the use of arbitrary cut-points to identify individuals with hoarding,” Timpano said. She believes that clinical criteria should contain a spectrum of hoarding symptoms, ranging from mild to severe behaviors. Additionally, psychological stress should be measured similarly and should be considered at all levels to ensure that those with mild hoarding characteristics are not excluded from clinical diagnosis and available treatment.
- Timpano, K. R., Broman-Fulks, J. J., Glaesmer, H., Exner, C., Rief, W., Olatunji, B. O., Keough, M. E., Riccardi, C. J., Brähler, E., Wilhelm, S., Schmidt, N. B. (2012). A taxometric exploration of the latent structure of hoarding. Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029966
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