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Exploring emotions and cognitions in hoarding: a Q-methodology analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 May 2020

Adam Postlethwaite
Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
Stephen Kellett*
University of Sheffield and Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
Nathan Simmonds-Buckley
Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Foundation NHS Trust, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:



The cognitions and emotions of people prone to hoarding are key components of the dominant cognitive behavioural model of hoarding disorder.


This study sought to use Q-methodology to explore the thoughts and feelings of people that are prone to hoarding, to identify whether distinct clusters of participants could be found.


A 49-statement Q-set was generated following thematic analysis of initial interviews (n = 2) and a review of relevant measures and literature. Forty-one participants with problematic hoarding met various study inclusion criteria and completed the Q-sort (either online or offline). A by-person factor analysis was conducted and subsequent participant clusters compared on psychometric measures of mood, anxiety, hoarding and time taken on the online task as proxy for impulsivity.


Four distinct participant clusters were found constituting 34/41 (82.92%) of the participants, as the Q-sorts of n = 7 participants failed to cluster. The four clusters found were ‘overwhelmed’ (n = 11 participants); ‘aware of consequences’ (n = 13 participants); ‘object complexity’ (n = 6 participants) and ‘object–affect fusion’ (n = 4 participants). The clusters did not markedly differ with regard to hoarding severity, anxiety, depression or impulsivity.


Whilst the participant clusters reflect extant research evidence, they also reveal significant heterogeneity and so prompt the need for further research investigating emotional and cognitive differences between people prone to hoarding.

© British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2020

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