Self-Control Deficits May Contribute to Hoarding Behaviors

Self-control is the ability to maintain control over behaviors and emotional reactions. This process is especially helpful when individuals try to abstain from certain behaviors, such as drinking in excess or overeating, and also helps people adhere to other behaviors, such as exercising. In fact, research has shown that people who have eating problems and drug or alcohol issues tend to have lower levels of self-control than people without those difficulties. Hoarding is one such psychological condition that seems to be linked to low levels of self-control. Individuals who exhibit hoarding behaviors find it nearly impossible to get rid of seemingly unimportant items and tend to acquire things in excess. To determine if self-control impairments contribute to hoarding behaviors, Kiara R. Timpano of the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami recently conducted a series of studies that looked at hoarding symptoms.

In three separate examinations, Timpano found that self-control was linked to hoarding behaviors in that the lower the self-control of the participants, the more symptoms of hoarding they showed. Even when Timpani controlled for other psychological conditions, including depression and anxiety, self-control still remained a significant predictor of hoarding. Timpano tested the findings even further by comparing self-control levels in the participants with hoarding behaviors to those of individuals with social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Still, the self-control in the hoarders was less than in the other participants. In sum, the results demonstrated that individuals with self-control deficits were more likely to save and less likely to discard items than individuals with higher levels of self-control. Although the results were gathered from a nonclinical sample that was not seeking help for hoarding tendencies, Timpani believes that the study still provides evidence of an indirect link between hoarding and self-control. She said, “What emerges from these considerations is a model where the self-control deck is stacked against the hoarder.” Future work on a broader sample of participants could shed light on a more direct relationship between self-control and hoarding behaviors that could aid in the development of treatment and prevention strategies.

Timpano, K. R., Schmidt, N. B. (2012). The relationship between self-control deficits and hoarding: A multimethod investigation across three samples. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029760

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    September 12th, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    The very act of boarding is looked upon as being negative in this study. It need not always be negative does it? Some people hoard things due to memories attached to them or an event that brought them that. It could be due to a variety of reasons.

    As far as self control is concerned I think that is better gauged by comparing how well people are able to avoid negative actions,like an addiction,for example!

  • Dolly Robertson

    Dolly Robertson

    September 12th, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    The same could be said for any addiction, no?
    I mean, for anything that we do in excess, like drinking or drugs and shopping and hoarding, there has to be that inherent lack of self control, that inability to control your actions.
    It is sad to see some of these shows where people can’t even get into their homes anymore because of the amount of trash and other junk that they have allowed to accumulate over the years.
    I often wonder what happens to these people when these TV shows come in and clean up and give them their homes back. I would be wiling to bet that for most of them within weeks they will find themselves back in the very same situations because the real issue at hand has never been fixed or resolved.

  • Christy


    September 12th, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    I always thought hoarders lack self confidence and are people that like to hang on to things because they have this fear inside of them. I have seen a few people who exhibit all of this and frankly it scares me at times. You do not know how their persona is affected due to this.

  • orlando


    September 12th, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    I know people that hoard things because they have anxiety issues.A friend admitted to me he feels like he might miss out on something important or may just NEED something after he throws it out and thats why he hoards several things.I think such people need a little talk from the therapist(no harm in that) and their fears will be gone.

  • Mel


    September 12th, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    these hoarder types gross me out. How can they even live like that?

  • Stanley Prentis

    Stanley Prentis

    September 13th, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    Obviously hoarders have issues with self control otherwise they would not choose to manifest their issues in the way that they do. But there is also something else going on inside of them that causes them to react that way. The hoarding is a problem, yes, but don’t you think that that is actually hiding and masking the pain of something else? I don’t think that anyone hoards goods just because they like stuff. They are trying to fill some void that they have in their life with things, much in the same way that I would presume that someone who overeats does with food. It’s not about all the stuff, it’s whay they choose to try to soothe themselves with all of that. That’s the key to treatment for them, and if you don’t get to the real root of the issue then without a doubt the behavior will continue.

  • Raye


    November 18th, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    I’m beginning to identify the causes of my (early stage) hoarding and working to resolve.

    A large portion of my issues relate to the loss of several important people within a short time. Additionally, my family is quite small so I’m also the person who (self appointed) to keep *everything* because if I don’t keep it, it will disappear forever. I’m determining that filling my home with clutter is a way to fill the gaps left open in my heart. But it has to stop. I have to let go of the things I don’t want, won’t use, can’t repair, never read, never wore, never watched, and on and on. It is my life and I choose to change it starting now.

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