Confessions of a Shopaholic
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Cindy Barnes MBA, Dip. TA Counselling, MBACP & Author
15th February, 2009
She walks through life in a series of fabulous designer shoes and an endorphin-induced haze. Becky Bloomwood is a girl who just can't say no to expensive bags or great fashion. How could she? In the film of the book by Sophie Kinsella out in the UK from 18th February 2009, store window mannequins come to life and, acting as sirens, entice her to buy and to enter every shop she passes.
So do you have that little voice in your head telling you to make that purchase?
How do I know if I have a problem?
There is a difference between a little ‘retail therapy’ and a shopping addiction. Shopping addiction is a real problem, a real addiction. Shopaholics are unable to let go of the exhilaration that shopping brings, a feeling that they, and the world, are better for their purchases. This feeling of almost euphoria whilst shopping or anticipating and thinking about shopping, is then followed by a huge low and then shame often when they get home and realize how much money they have spent.
The euphoric state prior to a spending spree and the hours spent fantasizing about what he or she will buy or indeed what they will spend their money on are commonplace emotions for this condition – as they are too for Bulimia but with food rather than shopping, and many other addictions alike. The euphoria is mirrored by the opposite emotions after the spending spree has occurred.
Often a sufferer will spend many hours after their spending spree considering the cost of the items they have purchased and will sink into a depressive state as the reality of how much money they have spent kicks in.
As with all addictions, the resulting overwhelming sense of shame, remorse and guilt accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, lead to despair. Often the remedy for the despair is more addictive behaviour resulting in more self-destructive feelings.
The consequences of a shopping addiction are obvious:
• High levels of debt
• Fear of discovery
• Retribution leading to denial and desperate acts to cover up the behaviour
For those closely connected to the person, life becomes frightening and unpredictable with a growing sense of uselessness and the belief that the person is deliberately causing chaos. A feeling of desperation sets in.
Answer the following questions to help you decide if you have a problem:
Do you use shopping as a quick fix when you’re feeling low?
Do you regularly spend more than you can afford?
Are some of your purchases unused or hidden?
Do you feel guilty or ashamed about this behaviour?
Would your life be happier (and richer) if you were shopping less?
Have your attempts to change been unsuccessful?
Why do people do it?
The feeling of euphoria and the belief that the purchase will make the person feel better, feel happier, is very persuasive. These feelings block out or gloss over the uncomfortable reality of their normal everyday existence. They might well be suffering from stress due to problems at work or may be suffering the break up of a relationship but whatever the reason the compulsion to spend money in order to feel happy and content is a strong one.
This problem, although one that is not as well publicised as addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, food or sex, is still high on the list of addictions that can lead to emotional breakdown as well as the break up of relationships and families.
Can it be cured?
Many sufferers are multi addicted, sometimes abusing prescribed drugs or alcohol in addition to the compulsive spending. The familiar pattern of overindulging and then feeling guilt, shame and despair takes the same shape with many addictions. The despair can be ended through successful treatment and people can be restored to normal life. As with other addictions, success follows an honest admission of the problem and the seeking of help from others.
If you are aware of someone within your family or a close friend who you think might be suffering from this addiction, or any other, it is important to try and encourage them to seek professional counselling help.
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