Disorder or defense: An exploration of the efficacy of early relationships as a model in a relational approach to understanding hoarding behaviour.

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Duerden, Zoë
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Current understanding conceptualizes hoarding as a disorder with a focus on the role of cognitive deficits in executive functioning and beliefs as the underlying cause. Prior to the dominance of the cognitive behavioural model hoarding had its origins in the psychoanalytic descriptions of the anal character. The focus of approaches based on cognitive and neurological deficits has left a gap in the discussion of hoarding in terms of how early relationships impact future behaviour. The current work looks to examine this gap by considering how the effects of early relationships impact development and influence cognitive processes. Using an object relations and attachment approach this work argues that hoarding behaviours are the result of a maturational process that uses avoidant attachment strategies and ego-syntonic defenses to guard against unmanageable feelings. Further, that this developmental process results in a weakened sense of self that is in part made more secure through hoarding behaviours and the resulting clutter. A relational model is put forward to understand this and to demonstrate how the therapeutic process can strengthen the persons abilities to change.