Doctorate in Clinical Psychology : Main Research Portfolio
: 1) The Role of Trauma in Hoarding Disorder: A Systematic Review; 2) Evaluation of a staff training programme to promote Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) in Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) services; 3) Investigating Autobiographical Memory Specificity in Hoarding Disorder and its relationship with Trauma.

  • Sarah Densham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)


Trauma exposure is considered to be a trans-diagnostic risk factor for mental health difficulties, including Hoarding Disorder (HD). A possible ‘cognitive marker’ of trauma is the limited ability to recall specific autobiographical memories, thought to be underpinned by psychological mechanisms (i.e. rumination, functional avoidance and executive control).Reduced autobiographical memory specificity (AMS) has been implicated to increase vulnerability to mental health difficulties; however, this phenomenon has been found to be relatively specific to individuals with a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)and/or Depression. There are inconclusive findings for the presence of reduced AMS in individuals with a history of trauma without mental health difficulties, or those with a history of trauma and experience of other mental health difficulties, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Given these findings, the extent to which individuals with H Dare specific in their autobiographical memory recall requires elucidation. To address this, the current study explored differences in AMS in HD compared to OCD and community controls (CC). 204 participants (HD; n=154, OCD n=22, CC=28) completed an online version of the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT; Williams & Broadbent, 1986) and a battery of standardised self-report questionnaires measuring psychopathology and demographic variables, including a measure of executive functioning (Neurosensory Center Comprehensive Examination for Aphasia, Spreen & Benton, 1977; FAS) and trauma exposure (Life Experience Checklist (LEC; Gray et al., 2004). A mixed two way ANOVA analysis indicated that there were no statistically significant differences in AMS between the groups, with no main effect of cue valence. Hierarchical regressions revealed that trauma exposure did not significantly predict AMS, but that the presence of HD was a predictor of reduced AMS. An interaction between trauma exposure and the presence of HD was not significant. Executive functioning was found to be the best predictor of AMS. The pattern of findings suggests that individuals with HD are as specific in their recall of autobiographical memories as individuals with OCD and CC. This aligns existing research which supports that reduced AMS is more peculiar to individuals with a diagnosis of either PTSD, depression or both. The findings support a role for psychological mechanisms, such as executive functioning, in AMS, which is consistent with previous research. Clinical ,research and theoretical implications of the findings are discussed.
Date of Award8 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJames Gregory (Supervisor), Anna Strudwick (Supervisor), Chris Gillmore (Supervisor) & Tom J. Barry (Supervisor)

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