A multifaceted assessment of emotional tolerance and intensity in hoarding

Kiara R. Timpano, Ashley M. Shaw, Jesse R. Cougle, Kristin E. Fitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Hoarding is characterized by emotionally reinforced saving behaviors, which often combine with excessive acquisition to give rise to clutter, distress, and impairment. Despite the central role emotional processes are thought to play in hoarding, very little research has directly examined this topic. There is suggestive evidence linking hoarding with several facets of emotional intolerance and avoidance, though one key limitation of this past research has been the exclusive reliance on self-report questionnaires. The aim of the current study was to conduct a multimethod investigation of the relationship between hoarding and perceptions of, and cognitions about, negative emotional states. A large unselected sample of nonclinical young adults (N= 213) completed questionnaires, behavioral tasks, and a series of negative mood inductions to assess distress tolerance (DT), appraisals of negative emotions, and emotional intensity and tolerance. Hoarding symptoms were associated with lowered tolerance of negative emotions, as well as perceiving negative emotions as more threatening. Individuals high in hoarding symptoms also experienced more intense emotions during the mood inductions than individuals low in hoarding symptoms, though there was no association with poorer performance on a behavioral index of DT. Across measures, hoarding was consistently associated with experiencing negative emotions more intensely and reporting lower tolerance of them. This relationship was particularly pronounced for the difficulty discarding and acquiring facets of hoarding. Our results offer initial support for the important role of emotional processes in the cognitive-behavioral model of hoarding. A better understanding of emotional dysfunction may play a crucial role in developing more effective treatments for hoarding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)690-699
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion appraisal
  • Emotional tolerance
  • Hoarding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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