When looking at Hoarding Disorder from a psychological standpoint, it offers a deeper level of understanding which results in the ability to provide better support to individuals who suffer.
Hoarding Disorder is a complex mental health condition, although there are currently limited treatment pathways available, the information derived from psychology can really benefit those working closely with clients in developing the tools used to aid recovery.
Understanding Psychology & Hoarding
At the heart of hoarding lies a web of emotional attachments. Possessions are imbued with memories, comfort, and a sense of identity. Individuals with Hoarding Disorder often form intense emotional bonds with objects, with these possessions providing a feeling of security or to address feelings of loneliness. The mere act of discarding an item can therefore evoke feelings of loss, anxiety, and distress, making decluttering a daunting task.
Hoarding involves a significant impairment in decision-making. The process of choosing what to keep and what to discard becomes an overwhelming challenge. The fear of making the wrong choice, losing something valuable, or triggering regret inhibits the ability to let go. As a result, items pile up, and living spaces become cluttered, affecting the person’s quality of life.
Understanding the ways in which a person’s brain works can help us understand the things they do. Research has highlighted that in cases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hoarding behaviour can look different. Factors such as special interests in ASD and differences in cognition in ADHD can express themselves in hoarding behaviours through mechanisms outlined by Dr Atwood here.
Impact of Trauma:
Trauma can significantly influence hoarding behaviours. Experiences such as loss, abuse, or major life changes can trigger hoarding as a way to cope with unresolved emotional pain. The act of accumulating possessions can create a sense of security and control amidst emotional turmoil, providing a tangible connection to a chaotic world.
Neuroplasticity & Hoarding Disorder
Although limited, several psychological treatments show promise for hoarding behaviours, but each has drawbacks. While not everyone maybe able to administer these treatments, by understanding why aspects of some treatments work and other do not, we can make our practice more effective, regardless of our relationship with an individual who hoards.
What is Neuroplasticity?
Neurones that fire together wire together. When neurones are active at the same time, there can be an increase in connectivity, meaning that a related skill or train of thought more readily available. This can be utilised to help those facing hoarding issues highlighted above.
As noted, hoarding is a complex condition with currently very limited treatment pathways. If practitioners can work to understand the deeper reasonings behind Hoarding Disorder, in turn they can support clients in being mindful of the skills and thoughts they need to increase or decrease.
Over time, humans can change their responses to situations, learn new habits and reduce discomfort.
By no means are we saying this a full proof method but it is a development that has derived from understanding the psychology of hoarding.
Why understanding Psychology & Hoarding is important :
Hoarding Disorder is a tapestry of emotions, cognitive patterns, and coping mechanisms. To truly comprehend hoarding, we must recognize that it goes beyond the visible clutter and engages with the intricate dynamics that shape an individual’s relationship with possessions. By addressing the underlying psychological factors, we can offer compassionate support and effective strategies for individuals struggling with Hoarding Disorder, helping them reclaim their living spaces and improve their emotional well-being.
Want to learn more about Psychology & Hoarding?
Sam Wainman, Psychologist & PhD Researcher, offers an extensive insight into the hoarded brain in our The Psychology of Hoarding Training.
This is available as public training on a per person booking or in-house on a date that suits your organisation.
Direct link to book the next public training can be found below –