The cognitive-behavioural model of hoarding disorder

May 14, 2018, Flinders University
Credit: iStock

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."

The study – '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 DOI 10:1002/cpp.2164 – has been published online in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy March 2018 (Wiley).

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 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 severity.

Explore further: Australian hoarders falling between the gaps

More information: Michael Kyrios et al. The cognitive-behavioural model of hoarding disorder: Evidence from clinical and non-clinical cohorts, Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy (2017). DOI: 10.1002/cpp.2164

Related Stories

Australian hoarders falling between the gaps

February 9, 2016
A leading expert on hoarding disorder has developed a new treatment for the condition and called for a major rethink in the way hoarding is managed in Australia.

Hoarding symptoms moderately stable during adolescence

June 28, 2017
Hoarding symptoms are stable during adolescence, mainly due to genetic effects, according to a study published June 28, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Volen Ivanov from the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and colleagues.

Study examines decision-making brain activity in patients with hoarding disorder

August 6, 2012
Patients with hoarding disorder exhibited abnormal activity in regions of the brain that was stimulus dependent when deciding what to do with objects that did or did not belong to them, according to a report in the August ...

People at risk of hoarding disorder may have serious complaints about sleep

June 8, 2015
A new study suggests that those at risk of hoarding disorder may have serious complaints about sleep.

New study looking to detect and treat hoarding disorder in childhood

January 15, 2015
Hoarding is a debilitating disorder that can have a devastating impact on those with the condition, their families and the community.

Guidelines on hoarding launched by psychologists

June 15, 2015
New guidelines providing information, guidance and recommendations for people working with those with hoarding difficulties are launched today, Tuesday 16 June 2015, in London by the British Psychological Society's (BPS) ...

Recommended for you

Even toddlers weigh risks, rewards when making choices

September 21, 2018
Every day, adults conduct cost-benefit analyses in some form for decisions large and small, economic and personal: Bring a lunch or go out? Buy or rent? Remain single or start a family? All are balances of risk and reward.

Early warning sign of psychosis detected

September 21, 2018
Brains of people at risk of psychosis exhibit a pattern that can help predict whether they will go on to develop full-fledged schizophrenia, a new Yale-led study shows. The findings could help doctors begin early intervention ...

Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction

September 20, 2018
If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

In depression the brain region for stress control is larger

September 20, 2018
Although depression is one of the leading psychiatric disorders in Germany, its cause remains unclear. A recent study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, Germany, found ...

American girls read and write better than boys

September 20, 2018
As early as the fourth grade, girls perform better than boys on standardized tests in reading and writing, and as they get older that achievement gap widens even more, according to research published by the American Psychological ...

Mindfulness meditation: 10 minutes a day improves cognitive function

September 19, 2018
Practising mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes a day improves concentration and the ability to keep information active in one's mind, a function known as "working memory". The brain achieves this by becoming more efficient, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.