alternative treatments

Are You Addicted to Shopping?

Deborah Gray Health Guide December 12, 2007
  • Are you a compulsive shopper? At this time of the year, when the gift buying starts to get out of control, you may begin to wonder. I personally am afraid to add up how much I've spent on Christmas presents. But when the holiday season is over, most of us will go back to a much more normal level of buying, especially after we get our credit card bills in January. Some people, however, will continue to shop, not because they need something or are buying gifts, but because they're driven by an addiction.

    How do you know if you are addicted to shopping? You might be able to tell by looking at your typical shopping trip. An addict's shopping excursion has more in common an alcoholic's "lost weekend" than it does with the Saturday shopping trip with your girlfriends. It's often driven by need to fill a void more than the need to socialize or replace the jeans that have mysteriously shrunk, and it's usually out of control.

    Other factors to consider are how your shopping is affecting your life and why you shop:
    • Do you have to buy something, anything, if you go shopping? Or can you leave a store empty-handed because you didn't find what you needed?
    • Do you depend on shopping to make you feel better when you are down? Does shopping give you a "high" or give you a feeling of power and control?
    • Is your shopping adversely affecting your life? Are you in debt primarily due to shopping?
    • Do you hide your purchases?
    • Do you go shopping intending to buy only a few things and come home with bags and bags of purchases?
    • Do you buy multiples of items? Do you have purchases that have never been used or clothes that still have tags on them?
    • Have you tried more than once, without lasting success, to curtail your shopping?
    My first therapist told me that addictive behavior is an attempt to fill a void inside oneself. Although that made sense to me in theory, I saw what she was talking about more clearly when my grandfather died. When I got home from errands one afternoon, my husband told me that my parents had called. My grandfather, whom I adored, had died.

    I spent about an hour crying, then went out to the computer superstore and bought two software packages that I had been coveting for months. I had been weighing the pros and cons of buying them, but all those considerations disappeared when I was in pain. My family's main bonding activity when I was growing up was shopping, so I turned to it to comfort myself. When I got home and my husband asked why I had bought the software, I just looked at him blankly. I had acted on autopilot to fill that void left by my grandfather's death.

    Luckily for me, my shopping falls into the "more than I should but not out of control" category. If you think that your spending is out of control, you should seek professional help and/or join a self-help group like Debtors Anonymous. You are not alone, and shouldn't feel ashamed to seek help.

    In addition, here are some tips to help you curb your spending:
    • Pay for purchases with cash, check or debit card. This will limit how much you can get in a hole, financially.
    • Make a shopping list before going out and stick to it.
    • Distract yourself with a non-shopping activity when the urge comes upon you.
    Links

    Debtor's Anonymous
    How to Manage Compulsive Shopping or Spending Addiction
    What is Compulsive Shopping or Spending?
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