Sydney, Jan 8 (IANS) Mental rigidity prevents compulsive hoarders from discarding unwanted possessions, even though the idea of clogging one's home with such stuff is baffling to most, says an Australian research.
Such hoarders have bankrupted themselves with self-storage bills or saddled with thousands of unwanted newspaper clippings. Many have driven their exasperated spouses to divorce.
Curtin University psychologists who probed their decision-making capabilities discovered that they score significantly lower on mental flexibility than non-hoarders, the journal Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy reports.
"People who hoard appear to have some difficulties with sustaining attention and in certain aspects of decision-making," says Clare Rees, associate professor of clinical psychology at Curtin and study co-author, according to a Curtin statement.
For instance, faced with an old jacket that no longer fits, a compulsive hoarder might struggle to decide whether to take it to the shop, get it tailored, give it to a friend, sell it online, keep it until they lose weight, or just chuck it away.
"What tends to happen is that they then feel overwhelmed and it simply gets thrown back into a box in the corner for another five years," Rees adds.
She and her colleagues gave volunteers a task called the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, which tests subjects' organisational skills by requiring them to arrange differently patterned cards into categories.
Compulsive hoarders had trouble adapting their scheme as things got more complex, and also struggled to maintain their focus on the task. The results suggest that curing compulsive hoarders of their tendencies is more complex than just teaching them to throw stuff away.