Hoarding — the “accumulation of something for preservation or future use” — becomes a problem when you can’t get rid of things even when they have no “future use”. But if you’re a hoarder, it might take more than a good clean-up strategy to help: research suggests that compulsive hoarding is identifiable through distinct patterns of brain activity
The Conversation reports on a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry which identified distinctly different patterns of brain activity in 43 patients with “hoarding disorder”:
Compared with patients who had OCD and the healthy individuals, researchers found that patients with hoarding disorder exhibited abnormal activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and insula. When deciding about items that did not belong to them, patients with hoarding disorder showed relatively lower activity in those brain regions. However, when deciding about items that did belong to them, these regions showed “excessive functional magnetic resonance imaging signals” compared with the other two groups, according to study results.
Knowing this doesn’t in itself provide treatment options for compulsive hoarders. However, it does suggest that “‘tough love” isn’t necessarily the best strategy for dealing with a hoarder; their brains are already churning along in high gear..." More