2010 IOCDF Grant

Affective responses and information processing in compulsive hoarding: A psychophysiological investigation

Michael Wheaton, MA

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

Award Amount: $26,878

At the time of this study, hoarding disorder (HD) was expected to become a diagnosis separate from OCD in the DSM-5. Despite growing evidence that HD is a distinct disorder, the question of whether it was based on fear or on distress interested researchers who wanted to understand it further.

This study by Mr. Wheaton and his team looked at experiential avoidance (the unwillingness to have uncomfortable emotions and thoughts and the efforts made to avoid them) in HD. With 33 participants with HD, 32 with an anxiety disorder, and 30 healthy controls, the team found that experiential avoidance was unrelated to HD — as a whole and across HD dimensions (Wheaton et al., 2013). Another publication related to this project looked at intolerance of uncertainty (IU; discomfort with ambiguous situations) in an 456 undergraduates, as well as a clinical sample that included 26 participants with HD, 26 with generalized anxiety disorder, 51 with OCD, 91 with other anxiety disorders, and 29 healthy controls. IU was associated with HD behaviors in both samples; in the clinical sample, participants with HD, OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder had comparable levels of IU. This project provided insight into the role of IU in HD, while showing that experiential avoidance likely does not play a role in HD behaviors.


Resulting Publications:

*Wheaton, M. G., Fabricant, L. E., Berman, N. C., & Abramowitz, J. S. (2013). Experiential avoidance in individuals with hoarding disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37(4), 779-785.

Wheaton, M. G., Abramowitz, J. S., Jacoby, R. J., Zwerling, J., & Rodriguez, C. I. (2016). An investigation of the role of intolerance of uncertainty in hoarding symptoms. Journal of Affective Disorders, 193, 208-214.