Scared and surrounded by clutter: the influence of emotional reactivity

Cassandra Crone, Melissa M. Norberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Home visits can improve treatment outcomes for hoarding disorder, but factors influencing the success of home visits remain unknown. As home visits expose individuals to clutter and fear, the present study examined the effect that fear and emotional reactivity have on the relationship between clutter and discarding behaviour. Methods: Participants with at least subclinical discarding problems (n = 143) were asked to save or discard personal possessions of varying value following an emotional induction that took place in either a tidy or cluttered context. Participants also completed questionnaires assessing hoarding severity, emotional state, and emotional reactivity, as defined by one's sensitivity, persistence, and intensity of reactions to emotional stimuli. Results: As expected, participants discarded more items in the presence of clutter and when feeling fearful. However, emotional reactivity moderated the relations between environmental context, acute emotional state, and discarding. Low sensitivity, low persistence, and high emotional intensity negatively influenced discarding in the cluttered context. When feeling fearful, low dispositional emotional intensity negatively influenced discarding in the tidy context. Limitations: Individuals in the tidy environment reported higher levels of fear and anxiety than individuals in the cluttered environment after the fear induction. These differences could have contributed to the difference noted between the two contexts when examining the effect of emotional intensity tendencies. Conclusions: Providing treatment in an environment more representative of the cluttered home can improve discarding or at the very least give therapists a more accurate picture of what clients do in the context that matters most.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-292
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • hoarding disorder
  • clutter
  • emotion recognition
  • home visits
  • fear
  • obsessive-compulsive related disorders


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