Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

David Chen, Heather Z. Lyons, Ph.D.

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Understanding Hoarding from a Terror Management Perspective: Mortality Salience as a Mediator of the Relation between Traumatic Life Events and Hoarding

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Hoarding has gained recognition recently as a serious private and public problem, by which the accumulation of and failure to discard items leads to cluttered and potentially dangerous conditions. Research indicates that genetic factors may account for roughly half of hoarding cases, potentially leaving the other half explained by environmental experiences. While several studies have examined the relation between traumatic life events and hoarding, the mechanism that may explain this link is still unknown. Drawing upon Terror Management Theory, which states that self-esteem serves as a buffer to anxiety; the aim of this study was to examine whether mortality salience, an awareness of one’s own eventual death, may serve to partially mediate the relation between traumatic life events and hoarding severity. Eighty-one adults with self-reported hoarding behavior completed a survey online or in person assessing traumatic life events experienced, hoarding symptomatology, and mortality salience. Results revealed no relation between traumatic life events and hoarding severity. Results also indicated that mortality salience did not partially mediate the relation between traumatic life events and hoarding. However, there was an association between types of traumatic life events and hoarding severity. This study was subject to several limitations, therefore, the findings of this study should be interpreted cautiously.