Today’s episode of Dr. Phil focused on people with compulsive hoarding issues. The first guest on the show (and by the way, for the record, I rarely watch the show – I liked him better when he was on Oprah) was a young man with an enormous collection of Star Wars items. He had apparently spent $200,000 building up this collection and his house was filled with the stuff. His wife (understandably) was fed up and wanted Dr. Phil to wake him up. He even admitted that if Star Wars didn’t exist, there would be no reason to be alive.

You have to ask yourself what void this guy is literally trying to fill with all this stuff. There are a lot of reasons that people keep get attached to their stuff, from sentimental reasons to the fear that if they throw something away, they might need it again someday. People collect things because it gives them a sense of safety, belonging, or identity. But in many cases of compulsive hoarding, which is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the “stuff” is a symbol for something that the person feels they’re lacking in their life. So to fill up that feeling of emptiness, they collect and/or keep things that have some special meaning to them, instead of satisfying that need in a healthier way.

In some ways, compulsive eating and emotional eating are similar to compulsive hoarding. In the case of eating, the food represents something that the person feels they are missing, like love, comfort, or a sense of pleasure. And in a very literal way, the extra weight is the extra “stuff” that the person is carrying around. Obviously, this type of behaviour varies, from having a couple of extra pounds and being a bit of a packrat, to being morbidly obese or suffering from the most extreme forms of compulsive hoarding. But wherever you might fall on that continuum, ask yourself: what hunger are you trying to fill?