The link between hoarding and bereavement is being examined in a major Irish study just launched.
Researchers at the School of Psychology at NUI Galway want to better understand how belongings provide a sense of comfort or safety following a loss.
People sometimes accumulate articles to fill an emotional hole because it allows them to avoid dealing with the pain.
The researchers are seeking people who may just have cluttered, disorganised, homes as well as individuals with a severe hoarding problem. People who do not hoard at all can also take part in the study.
People who hoard often have very cluttered homes as they keep things that may seem useless to other people and also buy things they do not need and feel they cannot throw anything away.
Hoarding is more common than previously thought. Past research has shown hoarders often feel a powerful attachment to their belongings and might feel the need to save things in case they are needed in the future.
If the underlying issue is not adequately treated, the hoarder will simply begin accumulating new possessions and quickly fill the cleared space.
The study is being conducted by Dr Elizabeth Kehoe, a doctoral student on the clinical psychology training programme at the School of Psychology, and Dr Jonathan Egan, the programme’s deputy director.
Dr Egan said the team wants to find out why people collect things and why accumulating belongings can increase following a bereavement or personal upset.
“We want to hear from a large range of people, from those who would rate themselves as ‘lifelong magpies’ to those who have noticed that it is becoming difficult to part with newspapers and other non-essential household items, or even that their house is becoming very crammed and it affects the ability to share their home with guests,” he said.
More than 1,000 participants are being sought for the online survey. To participate, go to surveymonkey.com/r/nuighoarding
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