Shopping Addiction, Not A Joke Punch Line Anymore
“For some people, this is an addiction as serious as alcohol and drug abuse,” notes April Lane Benson, an expert in shopping disorders and editor of I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying & The Search For Self. “This long smiled-upon addiction is at last being recognized as a genuine, destructive, and treatable illness.”
- Is shopping a quick fix when you’re lonely, angry, depressed, bored, hurt, anxious, sad, or feeling inadequate?
- Do you spend more than you can afford?
- Are some purchases unused or hidden?
- Do you feel “high” when you go on a buying binge and ashamed afterward?
- Have attempts to change failed?
Figure out why you shop compulsively and how it began.
What are triggers—inadequacy, guilt, sadness, fear?
Explore your ambivalence about changing your habits.
Track the expense of every purchase.
What are you really shopping for? Identify underlying needs you are trying to meet such as comfort, belonging, revenge, companionship.
Identify life-enhancing ways to meet those needs. If you are feeling guilty, for instance, you might need to give yourself latitude, atone for a wrong, or seek forgiveness.
Shop mindfully. Design ways to build strength, develop awareness, and tolerate your impulses without acting on them.
Create alternatives to shopping. If you overshop out of a craving for the personal attention of salespeople, call someone you feel close to and meet for dinner, a movie, or conversation. Or connect with someone by volunteering your help or expertise. The urge to shop is likely to dissipate, and you’ll have addressed what Benson calls your authentic need.
“There is an inverse relationship between materialism and subjective well-being,” says Benson. “But when you use your money to take care of education, to provide an enriching experience for your family, that relationship doesn't hold. When people use money for experience as opposed to goods, they feel more satisfied. The acquisition of true wealth has to do with the cultivation of activities and interests that enrich you as a person.”
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