Shop of Horrors

By Anna Sachse

Posted September 10, 2009 in Mind Body Spirit

In the land of Amer-I-can consume, buying piles of crap is a measure of success, a hobby, a form of therapy, even downright patriotic—may I remind you of ex-President Bush’s post-9/11 mandate to “Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” Apparently splurging was the anesthetic that would make us all feel better about mass death and the realization that our country, capitalist though it may be, is not much beloved by a large portion of the world. 


But I digress. The issue I actually want to talk about is compulsive shopping a.k.a. compulsive buying. If you buy one iPod when you really should be saving for your rent, you’re probably not a compulsive buyer. But if you buy 10 iPods, in the same color as the other 10 you already have at home, you might be. 


Compulsive shopping is not just being irresponsible or greedy; it’s a serious impulse control disorder and can be just as addictive as alcohol or drugs—some shoppers experience euphoria or wild mood swings while shopping, and even sweat or experience a racing heart. Compulsive buyers are also often more prone to other destructive behavior, such as eating disorders, depression, embezzling, compulsive gambling and hoarding, as well as bankruptcy, suicide, divorce and family discord due to their behavior.


According to, a division of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending, the shopping addict continuously buys to relieve anxiety, which over time leads to a dysfunctional lifestyle as more and more of their attention is consumed by shopping and often the cover-up. The reasons for the behavior are varied, but at its core it’s a psychiatric disorder. Women tend to target clothes, shoes or jewelry, while men usually binge on electronics, hardware or books. But contrary to popular belief, studies have found that men suffer from it almost as much as women and it frequently runs in families. In fact, a national survey conducted in 2006 found that nearly six percent of American adults (that’s over 1 in 20) could not resist the urge to shop, even when it was detrimental to their well-being. 


Here are some tips for recognizing it in you, and for putting the kibosh on it:


Warning Signs

Do you frequently buy things to reward yourself or to cheer yourself up when you feel anxious, angry, scared or disappointed? 


After you’re done, do you feel guilty, embarrassed or confused?


Do you have trouble saving money or even paying your bills, even though you actually make more than is needed for your bills?


Have you stolen money, including intentionally bouncing checks, in order to buy things?


Do you lie about how much you buy?


Do you amass items that you never actually use?


Have your spending habits affected your relationships, job or health?



As with any addiction, the first step is admitting there is a problem and then seeking help. Because true addictions are what can technically be referred to as “a real bitch,” it’s virtually imperative that compulsive shoppers get consistent support from an outside source, such as Debtors Anonymous, a specialized clinic or a psychologist. Credit counseling could also be helpful if you’ve racked up daunting debt thanks to the 700 bikinis your keeping in your basement.


Regardless, here are some other helpful tips for avoiding overspending:


Cut up your credit cards; only buy with cash.


Before you head out to a store, make yourself a list of things you need and only allow yourself to purchase those items.


Avoid shopping temptations, such as online shopping sites and outlet malls.


Be the first to comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.