Compulsive shopping is a disorder characterised by excessive shopping. The individuals suffering from this disorder will ‘shop till they drop’ or shop until the limit of their credit cards. Mo
st of them shop because it makes them feel better and because it is an escape from loneliness, anxiety and depression.
Some of the characteristics of compulsive shopping include:
• The shopper is preoccupied with shopping. They keep thinking about shopping more times than they want to.
• They spend more time carrying out research on items they covet. They will also spend a lot of time shopping for these items.
• Most of them prefer shopping alone to avoid distraction or embarrassment.
• They suffer from financial problems due to overspending.
• Some of them hide items in the home to avoid conflicts with loved ones.
Contrary to the belief that shopping makes them feel better, compulsive shoppers usually end up feeling bad about themselves and their actions. This usually leads to depression over their lack of control over their shopping impulses. By shopping excessively, they end up in financial, relationship and/or legal problems, which makes them sad and they head out to shop and the cycle continues. Some of the most popular items bought include jewellery, clothes, shoes and household items. A huge number of compulsive shoppers are always on the look out for sales.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to reduce compulsive shopping:
• Paying via cash, debt card or check.
• Creating a shopping list and sticking to it.
• Avoiding discount houses and clearance sales.
• Getting rid of all credit cards except ones for emergency purposes only.
• Taking part in other activities such as walking and exercising when the urge to shop appears.
• Staying away from stores that will tempt them and window shopping late when the stores are closed to avoid the urge of getting into the store to buy an item.
• Shopping with a friend to help limit impulsive buying.
• Avoiding shopping after undergoing upsetting events or when feeling sad or angry.
For those whose compulsive shopping is out of control, professional help is required. There are quite a number of self help groups, such as shopaholics anonymous, that the shoppers can consider so that they can get over their compulsive behaviour. With the advancement of the internet, compulsive shoppers can also get online help from self help groups and tools that can help them.
The other option is medication. The medication will not cure compulsive shopping directly, but will focus on the underlying causes such as depression and anxiety. The other treatment option available for compulsive shoppers is cognitive behavioural techniques.
One of the most important things the compulsive shoppers need to do before they start any treatment option is to admit that they have a problem. Without this, the selected treatment will not work regardless of how effective it is in other people. They should also indicate the desire to modify the problem as this is the best way to get to the root of the problem.