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Is there a link between bereavement and hoarding?

A team of psychologists in Ireland are carrying out a study to find out if there is a link between bereavement and hoarding.
The School of Psychology at NUI Galway is looking for 1,000 participants to take part in the study.
Is there a link between bereavement and hoarding? Photo copyright TheDoctorMo CC3
They are looking for people who simply have a lot of clutter throughout their homes, as well as those with a more serious hoarding behaviour.
The researchers aim to find out if there is a direct correlation between the grief of losing a loved one, and the inability to throw things away.
Dr Elizabeth Kehoe is one of the leaders of the study. She said: “We’re looking to see if hoarding is a way of coping. A way of coming to terms with a loss.
“Hoarding can be a symptom of something else. There has to be something causing it. Is it a way of coping with emotions people don’t want to face? Filling their lives with these things… It’s not just a weird habit.”
Dr Kehoe explained that other common explanations for hoarding behaviour have not always been backed up by evidence in other studies.
She said: “People might say it’s because they didn’t have a lot growing up. But the research doesn’t bear that out. People hoard regardless of that. It’s not to do with having a form of OCD either.”
Dr Kehoe also said that simply taking away a hoarder’s clutter will not necessarily get to the bottom of the issue.
“If someone doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, hoarding may be a way of coping. And that’s what we’re trying to understand.”
Dr Kehoe’s colleague psychologist Dr Jonathan Egan added: “The team are really interested in a holistic view of why we collect things and why it can increase at times following a bereavement or personal upset.
“We want to hear from a large range of people, from those who rate themselves as ‘life-long 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.”
If you would like to take part in the study then visit www.surveymonkey.com.

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