Shopping: My Early Warning-Sign of Bipolar Symptoms

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • A few months ago, I woke bolt upright in bed and panicked. Why in the world had I placed a huge bid on an online shopping auction site earlier that evening? What in the world possessed me to think I could not live without that particular item? What about the 20 other things I had recently unpacked from their shipping containers?

    Shopping—especially from online auction sites—has become one of my new early (or sometimes late) warning signs that I am symptomatic. I struggle with this a lot. When I am manic, I just know I have all the money in the world, and I will somehow be able to pay the bills. I deserve this item. I am special. When I am depressed, buying something and having it show up in the mail like a present comforts me in a way nothing else seems to do. It makes me feel better. It connects me to an online shopping community that seems to care—about my money, anyway.
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    An interesting article about shopping and depression can be found here.

    I am working with the following strategies to help me with my self-medication through shopping issues:
    1. I set aside a specific amount that I can spend on shopping and put it in a separate checking account each paycheck. I use that debit card for shopping, and when it’s gone, I know I have reached my limit.
    2. When I bid online, I never allow myself to use the buy-it-now option. I start with a low bid so that I can be outbid and change my mind over time.
    3. If I really want something after I have placed my low bid, I then use a “sniping site” like eSnipe. Unlike a bid, a snipe can be deleted or lowered after being placed. A sniping site will automatically place the bid for you about six seconds before the close of the item. This keeps you out of bidding wars where you and someone else raise the price sky-high, because you MUST own this item.   
    4. I keep the boxes from what I have won in a prominent spot for the month (like in my bedroom in front of my closet) so that I am forced to see that I have purchased a lot that month. This helps me stay more in control.
    5. If I feel like I want or need to buy something, I try very hard to channel that into something I actually need or will use—like birthday or holiday gifts for someone, or practical things like light bulbs or toilet tissue. This keeps me from buying things I will never ever use but thought I must have.
    As always I am interested in your mental health–related shopping experiences and any strategies you have for making recovery real in this area.

    Be well.
Published On: April 04, 2007