Hoarding is a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior. An individual who exhibits hoarding tendencies has a difficult time letting go of physical items and becomes inundated with possessions, often to the point of causing physical and financial harm. Previous research has identified a link between people who hoard and obesity. Now, a new study led by Kiara R. Timpano of the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami, aims to determine if the brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is responsible for that link. “Studies with gene-targeted murine models have demonstrated that Bdnf variation is linked with memory impairment, greater avoidance, greater anxiety, aggression, and obesity,” said Timpano. The variation, called the Val66Met SNP, was of particular interest to her and her team. “Considering specific psychiatric conditions, the Val66Met BDNF SNP has been associated with multiple neuropsychiatric disorders, including eating disorders,” she said.
Timpano and her team examined the BDNF gene in 301 participants who were classified with obsessive-compulsive behaviors. They used the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Axis I Disorders Patient Edition (SCID-P) to identify OCD and the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) to assess hoarding behaviors. The researchers also measured the body mass index (BMI) of each participant to determine obesity.
They found that more than half of the participants were above average weight, with 25.2% being classified as “overweight” and 27.2% as “obese.” They also discovered that the individuals with the highest BMI were also the most likely to exhibit hoarding behaviors. “Results revealed that individuals in the hoarding group were over two times more likely to be classified as obese compared with non-hoarders,” said Timpano. The team hopes this study helps advance research on this issue. They said, “This finding, in conjunction with our results, brain imaging evidence, and symptomatic and gender differences in hoarding compared with other forms of OCD, provide further credence to the growing notion of hoarding as a separable and distinct phenomenon.”
Timpano, Kiara R., Norman B. Schmidt, Michael G. Wheaton, Jens R. Wendland, and Dennis L. Murphy. “Consideration of the BDNF Gene in Relation to Two Phenotypes: Hoarding and Obesity.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 120.3 (2011): 700-07. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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