Shopping Addiction: The Consequences Of Compulsive Spending

Shopping Addiction: The Consequences Of Compulsive Spending
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Shopping addiction may just be a means of escape from the realities of life or an outlet to anger, depression, anxiety, boredom or loneliness.

How many times have you reached out for a third shirt when you know well that two shirts are just about what you need to buy for the time being?

If someone saw you on a weekend are they most likely to remember you coming out of a mall juggling shopping bags branded with logos of Westside, Fab India, Crossword, Big Bazaar and L’Oreal?

Shopaholics get a high from addictive behaviour like shopping. During shopping sprees endorphins and dopamine, naturally occurring opiate receptor sites in the brain get switched on making the person feel good. The nicer this feeling is the person is likely to shop more.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Savitri comes from an upper-middle-class household but has friends who belong to the affluent strata of society who spend their vacations abroad.

She fancies leading a lavish lifestyle like her friends and suffers from an inferiority complex whenever her friends possess an expensive item she doesn’t have. Her status anxiety makes her shop for things that her family finds very difficult to afford.

Often Savitri is shopping when she should be with her baby daughter. Hoping that her husband won’t find out about the shopping spree she has secret credit card accounts.

There are however times when Savitri feels guilty of over-spending and has even returned a few of her purchases. But before long she is on another shopping extravaganza. Her husband has started to feel suspicious about the way Savitri spends her money.

Ruma was given huge sums of pocket money by her parents ever since she was a child. Having shopaholic parents Ruma grew up with shopping as a favourite pastime. Her family vacations to Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok, London and New York were spent on shopping rather than sightseeing.

Just about a year into a call centre job, Ruma spends every rupee she earns on shopping, eating out and watching movies. Yet, she feels she hasn’t shopped enough.

Ruma’s purchases mostly lie in a heap in her room with their tags intact – in this very room expensive toys she hardly ever played with lay in a heap when she was a child.

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What is Shopping Addiction?

Do you budget your spending? Or to put it very simply – are you addicted to shopping?  Psychologist Debolina Chakrabarti, working with Mon Foundation in Kolkata, explains shopping addiction as:

“Shopping without keeping the budget into consideration and buying things that may not be necessary.”

You may have an internet shopping addiction if you spend a major part of your time online shopping for alluring products that seem just a mouse click away.

If the only channel you watch on the telly is the home shopping network, you could be at risk for a home network shopping addiction. When asked which gender is more to shopping addiction, Debolina answers:

“Research shows that shopping addiction affects mainly women while alcoholism affects men. Items which top a woman’s shopping list are clothes, makeup and jewellery.”

Shopping Addiction Causes

Shopaholics get a high from addictive behaviour like shopping. During shopping sprees endorphins and dopamine, naturally occurring opiate receptor sites in the brain get switched on making the person feel good. The nicer this feeling is the person is likely to shop more.

To capitalise on this compulsive shopping instinct – shops display similar items alluringly side by side – making customers pick up what they want or desire rather than what they need being quite oblivious of the fact that one’s money is after all limited.

Shopping addiction is rooted in complex psychological reasons. Shopping may just be a means of escapism from the realities of life and its accompanying problem – an outlet to anger, depression, anxiety, boredom or loneliness.

Shopping cures none of your woes. It just seems to provide some instant relief. The long-term effects of shopping addiction can include debt and damage to close relationships.

Fashion and image consultant, Nutan Khurana, who knows women with this addiction, says:

“Sometimes, women who shop compulsively may be having a void in their life which they are trying to fill with materialistic goods.”

Architect Lavannya Goradia believes that these women just need love, care, assurance, a sense of security.

“They need to be made to realize that only temporary happiness comes from buying new clothing and other things – for permanent happiness one needs to do much more.”

Shopping Addiction Treatment

Treatment for compulsive shopping is like any other addiction. Shopping addiction may be treated with psychotropic drugs and counselling.

Here are some simple tips to recover from a shopping addiction:

  • First and foremost, be honest and admit there is a problem. Take professional help and also speak to wise and empathetic non-shopoholic friends who can offer unbiased moral support and positive encouragement to De-addict you from shopping.
  • Chalk out a budget and ascertain a fixed amount which you can spend on your personal shopping. Categorize items on your shopping list as necessities, comforts and luxuries with the help of your therapist. Try to minimize expenses on luxuries and judiciously monitor purchases of comforts.
  • With the help of a mental health professional identify all the stages in the compulsive buying cycle- the triggers, feelings, dysfunctional thoughts, typical behaviour and consequences. Try to break the vicious cycle of shopping sprees.
  • Try to keep credit and debit cards just for emergencies. These cards just add fuel to fire in your shopping addiction. In fact, cancelling them won’t be a bad idea.
  • Don’t subscribe to shopping catalogues. Don’t even visit sales or discount warehouses as they may make you spend more in the long run. Avoid watching shopping programs on TV and try not to obsess over advertisements in magazines and newspapers.
  • Divert your attention when you come across such advertisements. Also, avoid window shopping as before long you may end up purchasing what you covet for but can’t really afford.
  • Keep yourself busy throughout the day with work and various other hobbies. Don’t allow shopping to be your major or only hobby.
  • Try to be farsighted. Understand that saving will help you to buy an asset your family really wants in the future- a house or a car. Money also needs to be saved for emergencies and dry days.

Also read:

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Comments 2

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  • Compulsive shopping is what’s known as a process addiction. Process addictions are addictions to an activity or process. Other process addictions include gambling, and overeating. For more information on how to cope with shopping addiction, read this guide: The Intervention Guide – knowing when it’s time to get help

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