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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social support in hoarding Yip, Jennifer Yan Wa


Many people with hoarding problems have never been married and live by themselves. Further, treatment-seekers tend to be elderly, which puts them at special risk for social isolation. Research has established strong links between social support and many aspects of psychological health, but the role of social support in hoarding has not yet been explored. Does excessive clutter drive away people who care? Does living alone provide freedom to accumulate clutter? How social support is provided and received is also relevant. Although family members or healthcare workers may intend to minimize health and safety risks associated with hoarding behaviour, actions they intend to be supportive may be delivered insensitively or inappropriately. Previous research has found that hoarding is a source of family burden and distress. As a result, hoarding may be related to interpersonal conflict. This study investigated (1) social integration, the degree to which someone is involved in a broad range of relationships, (2) perceived support, the amount of support perceived to be available if need arises, (3) received support, the amount of support perceived to have been obtained, and (4) social conflict, which broadly includes a range of negative social interactions. Seventy-eight participants with a range of hoarding symptoms were surveyed online. The relations among hoarding symptoms and four aspects of social support were examined. The effect of depression was considered, as it is highly comorbid with hoarding and may account for some aspects of poor social support. Hoarding was related to perceived support and social conflict, but this relationship was explained by depression. In contrast, hoarding was not related to social integration or received support. This study provides a basis for further research on social interactions in hoarding, and demonstrates the necessity in building sensitivity and awareness beyond media portrayals of hoarding, such that supportive behaviours are delivered in a thoughtful manner that minimizes conflict. Additionally, this study has implications for encouraging social integration and addressing issues of social support and conflict within hoarding interventions.

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