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Keywords:

  • autism spectrum disorders;
  • autistic traits;
  • obsessive–compulsive disorder;
  • compulsive hoarding;
  • hoarding disorder;
  • theory of mind;
  • DSM-5

Abstract

Background

Hoarding symptoms have been described in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Furthermore, individuals with hoarding disorder (HD) may display some ASD-like features. In order to further refine the diagnostic boundaries of HD, we examined the presence of autistic traits and theory of mind deficits in individuals with HD and of hoarding behavior in patients with ASD.

Methods

Two hundred and twenty-one participants in five groups (HD, ASD, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders (AD), and healthy controls (HC)) were administered measures of autistic traits (Autism-Spectrum Quotient), theory of mind (eyes test-revised), and hoarding severity (saving inventory-revised; SI-R (add acronym)).

Results

Hoarders displayed more autistic traits compared to healthy individuals but not to psychiatric controls. Participants with ASD had significantly higher scores on the SI-R than both psychiatric (OCD or AD) and HC groups, indicating more severe hoarding behavior, but had lower scores than participants with HD. The presence of autistic traits in individuals with HD was related to the presence of comorbid OCD, but the presence of hoarding symptoms in individuals with ASD was unrelated to comorbid OCD.

Conclusions

We conclude that individuals with HD do not display more autistic traits than psychiatric controls, thus supporting its status as an independent diagnostic entity. More research is needed to further understand the phenomenology and clinical relevance of hoarding symptoms in ASD. Depression and Anxiety 0:1–9, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.