Hoarding and emotional reactivity: The link between negative emotional reactions and hoarding symptomatology

A. M. Shaw, K. R. Timpano, G. Steketee, D. F. Tolin, R. O. Frost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Hoarding disorder (HD) is characterized by difficulty discarding, clutter, and frequently excessive acquiring. Theories have pointed to intense negative emotional reactions (e.g., sadness) as one factor that may play a critical role in HD's etiology. Preliminary work with an analogue sample indicated that more intense negative emotions following emotional films were linked with greater hoarding symptoms. Symptom provocation imaging studies with HD patients have also found evidence for excessive activation in brain regions implicated in processing emotions. The current study utilized a sample with self-reported serious hoarding difficulties to examine how hoarding symptoms related to both general and hoarding-related emotional reactivity, taking into account the specificity of these relationships. We also examined how two cognitive factors, fear of decision-making and confidence in memory, modified this relationship. 628 participants with self-identified hoarding difficulties completed questionnaires about general emotional reactivity, depression, anxiety, decision-making, and confidence in memory. To assess hoarding-related emotional reactivity, participants reported their emotional reactions when imagining discarding various items. Heightened general emotional reactivity and more intense emotional reactions to imagined discarding were associated with both difficulty discarding and acquisition, but not clutter, controlling for age, gender, and co-occurring mood and anxiety symptoms. Fear of decision-making and confidence in memory interacted with general emotional reactivity to predict hoarding symptoms. These findings provide support for cognitive-behavioral models of hoarding. Experimental research should be conducted to discover whether emotional reactivity increases vulnerability for HD. Future work should also examine whether emotional reactivity should be targeted in interventions for hoarding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-90
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Decision-making
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Hoarding
  • Memory
  • Negative emotions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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