Hoarders’ Brain Scans Show Differences, Researchers Say

is hoarding OCD

Hoarders are very intriguing to most Americans, and the psychological reasons behind their unusual behavior in relation to possessions and home maintenance has even been parlayed into a widely watched reality show.

But hoarders also defy understanding for many people, and the complex issue of hoarding often is linked with the related issue, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Hoarders are often decried as lazy, unclean, or uncaring of those around them, but a recent study involving brain scans of hoarders comparing them with the brain scans of people affected by OCD have determined that hoarding behavior seems to be distinctly separate from the similar but not-the-same disorder.

Ultimately, what researchers found was that hoarders indeed have difficulty in determining which items to keep and which to throw away, due to difficulty processing the relative importance of items as well as being impeded in decision-making.

In a group of 33 healthy participants, 31 diagnosed with OCD, and 43 diagnosed with hoarding disorder, researchers were able to observe abnormal brain activity in the latter group via functional MRIs.

hoarding brain scan

Study author David Tolin is director of the Anxiety Disorders Center and Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Tolin explains:

“These findings further suggest that hoarding should be considered separate from OCD, and that it deserves recognition as a unique psychiatric disorder… It also shows us that people who hoard have a hard time processing information normally, and that when they have to make a decision their brain goes into overdrive — specifically, those parts that are involved with identifying the relative importance or significance of things.”

The study was published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.