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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • HealthStyle: Are you a shopaholic?

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  • Approximately 2 to 5 percent of Americans are considered to be compulsive shoppers. Compulsive shopping and spending is a pattern of chronic, repetitive purchasing of unneeded items whether or not you have the financial means to pay for them. It is not yet classified in psychiatric manuals but seems to fall under the category of compulsive and impulsive behavior.
    There are many possible reasons for compulsive shopping. Compulsive shoppers seem to get a psychological rush or temporary euphoria from buying, similar to people who have gambling, overeating, or drug problems. When they act on their compulsions they also tend to get the extreme feelings of depression and guilt that follow. This often leads to another round of shopping to feel better…..creating an endless cycle of highs and lows. It may be easier to deny compulsive shopping than some other compulsive behaviors because everyone shops sometimes. Society also makes it easy to get hooked on shopping with the ready availability of credit and debit cards and the ease of on-line shopping. If you do not have a credit card most stores will allow you to sign up and use your new card on the spot. The lack of transparency when spending with credit makes it seem as if the purchase is free and you are not really spending at all. Materialism in our society is also encouraged and people are programmed to believe success is defined by how many things they have.
    Whenever compulsive behaviors occur it is important to ask if some other need is being filled through the behavior. Perhaps shopping is the only means you have to feel pleasure and reduce unpleasant feelings. You may get a temporary boost to self esteem and self confidence when you wear that new coat, dress, or jewelry. Shopping may be your means of reducing stress in the short term because you initially feel better after your purchase. The concerns of poor finances, fear of job loss, and poor health may disappear while in the midst of a shopping binge….only to re-emerge later in the recognition that the behavior was irrational and self destructive. People who shop excessively may be filling some type of void even if it is only temporary. They subsequently find that the things they brought home in the shopping bags were not what they really needed.
    Compulsive shopping can have many consequences. Relationships are damaged from lying about the shopping and putting the family into debt. Other responsibilities may be neglected because the shopping consumes an inordinate amount of time. Depression and low self esteem can also be a consequence of the failure to control such self-destructive behavior.
    In order to change you must recognize that is has become a problem for you. It may be difficult to admit that you are a compulsive shopper. Like many compulsive behaviors denial is a common defense even when you know there is no logical explanation for the behavior. There are some indicators that may help you determine if shopping is out of control for you:
    Page 2 of 2 - You feel guilty and embarrassed after a shopping binge.
    You feel lost without credit or debit cards and seldom use money to pay for anything.
    You spend a lot of time trying to cover shortfalls in your budget due to the spending.
    You get angry and defensive if someone suggests that you buy too much.
    You feel an initial rush of euphoria when you buy the items.
    You lie about what you bought and hide the purchases.
    Shopping is your only form of gratification and entertainment.
    You have damaged relationships by creating excessive debt and lying about your shopping.
    You buy more than one of an item just because it looks pretty. Frequently you don’t wear all the things you have bought.
    You shop almost daily either in stores or on-line.
    Your self esteem and self confidence seems to get a boost when you wear your new purchases.
    You routinely buy more than you can afford to buy.
    If these descriptions fit you then it is time to dig a little deeper and determine what need you are filling with your excessive shopping. Do you need to work on your self esteem? Are you trying to escape loneliness through excessive shopping? Has shopping become your only source of pleasure? Are you battling with depression?
    Getting some help from a mental health professional may help you to find the underlying reasons. A therapist can also help you to set up some behavior modification plans to reduce the risk of compulsive shopping. Ultimately people must have a desire to change this self destructive behavior and replace it with healthier ways of feeling good.
    David Gannon, Ph.D., Psychological and Family Consultants, Canton, Ohio.
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