What is Compulsive Shopping?
Compulsive shopping is an obsession with buying things. These purchases are impulsive and unnecessary. A compulsive shopper is motivated less by the need for any particular item than by the emotional fulfillment he or she feels when engaged in acquiring objects. People usually associate compulsive shopping with women. However, forty percent of compulsive shoppers are male. Men are more likely to disguise the compulsive nature of their purchases by describing themselves as collectors, or connoisseurs, of music, cars, etc. Although this “explanation” often is accepted, their shopping habits, nonetheless, are damaging to both their emotional health and their financial situation. The vast quantities of goods amassed may be harmless enough, but the incessant drive to buy – regardless of cost, need or budget constraints – is terribly destructive.
How is Compulsive Shopping Damaging?
Like any compulsion that veers out of control, this habit eventually cripples one’s life, personal relationships and self-esteem. The activity may provide a temporary and illusory sense of well-being, but it completely fails to address the inner needs that are driving the compulsion. Rather than devoting attention and effort to identifying and attempting to satisfy real emotional needs, all of the individual’s energy is expended in shopping excursions that avoid and may even compound the true problem. Neglected, the core problem usually becomes worse, and more urgent. The compulsive shopper’s inner circle of spouse and friends can attest to just how destructive this compulsion can be to primary relationships. Frequently, the shopper’s increasing sense of emptiness and desperation is accompanied by new financial anxiety.
Why Do People Shop Compulsively?
There are several possible reasons for this behavior. It may be the result of familial or cultural influences, or of poorly developed coping skills. Like most compulsions, it represents a displacement of emotional energy, a method of avoiding a perceived threat. Some people shop as a means of relieving stress; of escaping demands and pressures that evoke unpleasant emotions they do not know how to handle. Shopping also may provide excitement and validation; the attention of the sales staff makes the shopper feel important and cared for. In addition, the act of acquiring, of giving oneself a “gift,” may be used as a substitute for receiving love and acknowledgement from family members, friends and colleagues. It is easier and instant gratification of buying something than it is to
risk oneself trying to establish and maintain close, healthy relationships. Shopping serves as a convenient escape, appearing to fill an emotional void in one’s life.
Am I A Compulsive Shopper?
Many compulsive shoppers realize that their shopping habits are out of control. Often, their compulsion results in severe financial difficulties. However, as mentioned above, the emotional consequences of such behavior make it a problem even for those whose bank accounts can support it. Some compulsive shoppers cannot go a day without shopping; others feel compelled to go every few days. Those who are capable of abstaining for even longer tend to “make up for lost time” when they do shop.
The following questions will help you to identify your own shopping habits.
1. Do you find yourself shopping to soothe your nerves or to
2. Are you ashamed of your purchases? Do you deny or hide
3. Do you often find yourself justifying your purchases to
yourself or others?
4. Do you have financial difficulties because of overspending?
5. Are your purchases a source of conflict with your spouse, family or friends?
6. Do you lie to your spouse or friends about the price of items you have bought?
7. Do you have a closet full of unnecessary or unused purchases?
8. Do you regret time wasted shopping?
9. Do you plan your time around shopping trips?
Many people will answer “yes” to some, although, if you answered “yes” to many or most of them, this may indicate that your shopping has become compulsive.
Help for Compulsive Shoppers.
Shopping is a necessary part of our lives, but the compulsion to shop is not. Anyone with a sincere desire to change can conquer this compulsion. There are many means of help: support groups and/or private therapy, and by spending time engaged in meaningful pursuits, you can regain control of your emotional and financial life.