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Volkan, K. (2021). Hoarding and Animal Hoarding: Psychodynamic and Transitional Aspects. Psychodyn. Psych., 49(1):24-47.

(2021). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 49(1):24-47

Clinical Articles

Hoarding and Animal Hoarding: Psychodynamic and Transitional Aspects

Kevin Volkan, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Hoarding is a disorder that has only recently begun to be understood by researchers and clinicians. This disorder has been examined from a biopsychosocial perspective and has features that overlap with obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as some unique characteristics. Hoarding disorder is widespread and maybe related to the evolution of collecting and storing resources among humans and other animals. While there have been a number of non-analytic theories related to hoarding and its treatment, psychoanalytic thinkers have rarely described the disorder or explored its underlying psychodynamics. Beginning with Freud, it is possible to understand hoarding in relationship to the vicissitudes of the anal stage of development. However, loss of a loved object, especially loss of the mother, can play an important role in the development of hoarding behavior in adults. The hoarding of inanimate items, examined from a developmental object-relations perspective, appears to involve transitional phenomena. Animal hoarding also involves transitional phenomena, but animals, which can serve as animated transitional objects, also have a repetition compulsion function. These psychodynamic characteristics are relevant for establishing a working transference with the analyst or therapist, in order to promote positive therapeutic outcomes.

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