Ways to stop compulsive shopping ruining your life

Shopping for some people is either a necessary activity to replenish kitchen cupboards, replace worn items of clothing or footwear, or to make sure there is a sofa to sit on, or a bed to sleep in. For others it’s a fun pastime to enjoy with friends or alone, feeling little guilt other than maybe not really needing another pair of shoes.

Sadly, for others, it is a compulsion and a manifestation of deep-seated emotional issues.  There is little information on the true numbers as this is a condition that has only really been take notice of in recent years.  It is possible that as many as 6% of women and 5.5% of men in the US show a prevalence for compulsive buying.  The same patterns of behaviour and the chemical reaction – the high followed by the mood plummeting – is compared to that of over-eating, binge drinking or even drug abuse.  The addiction, for it is such, is linked to and often accompanies conditions such as depression, alcoholism and compulsive eating disorders. Compulsive shopping, or Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD) is an illness that can leave the sufferer with insurmountable debt, relationships in tatters and ruined careers as the addiction spirals out of control.  As with gambling and other addictions, the sufferer will feel shame, but be unable to stop and will lie about money spent, and could resort to cheating or stealing to fund their habit.  When one afflicted with the compulsion to shop is feeling angry, depressed, lonely or anxious, they will resort to the short term ‘fix’ of spending money.  The result will never be a happier, calmer, more loved and confident person – rather the negative feelings will escalate and be compounded by the amount of debt accumulated during the binge.

Spotting the behaviour in a loved one is sometimes difficult as they could conceal their purchases, but they will frequently return from a shopping trip with multiple bags and could be stockpiling items still in boxes or bags, sometimes unused, with the labels still on the goods or garments. Unpaid bills lead to poor credit scores and make it difficult to get mortgages, or secure a necessary loan.  What could be noticeable is a person being cash poor, but still seen splashing out frequently.

While much of the methods of addressing the disorder will rely on the will-power of the sufferer, there is some evidence that anti-depressants could help in managing the root cause of depression and will suppress the symptom of compulsion. Clinics such as The Therapy Lounge offer hypnotherapy to help with identifying and dealing with some of the underlying emotional issues attached to the need to keep shopping. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is another alternative to medication, helping the sufferer find ways to identify, and deal with, the triggers that lead to compulsive spending.

Some of the ways to control the behaviour are;

– Use cash or debit cards to pay for purchases.
– Make a shopping list and stick to it.
– Keep one credit card for emergency and destroy all others. Pay them off, starting with the most expensive, and cancel them as they are paid off.
– Avoid discount shopping centres or, if you do visit one, take only cash and remember that a bargain is only a bargain if it is something reduced that you actually need or have already been specifically looking for.
– Don’t “Window shop”. If you must, visit after hours. If unavoidable during the day, take only the barest amount of cash for transport or food.
– Cancel all internet shopping site subscriptions and don’t sign up to any marketing mail lists.
– Plan gifts in advance and make sure everything is wrapped and ready to go on any trip as the instinct will be to spend more on a last minute purchase.
– Take up another activity and walk, run or cycle, for example, when the urge to shop takes over
– Visit your GP to discuss counselling or seek out alternative therapy options.