A compulsive shopper is as impossible to identify during the holidays as a sober person at a fraternity party. Step into any department store and you’re guaranteed to spot a half-dozen shopping carts loaded with designer sweaters, fine jewelry, stylish boots, and dark chocolate. In a recent Psych Central blog, licensed psychologist Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., addresses the problem of compulsive shopping in the month of December.
First she lists seven signs of compulsive shopping:
- Shopping for things you don’t need with money you don’t have.
- Shopping in excess—200 watches, 400 pairs of shoes.
- Shopping only to return, give away or not use items purchased.
- Shopping or spending at the cost of family, job or pursuit of other life experiences.
- Shopping that leaves you feeling upset, guilty, or ashamed.
- Shopping that leads to serious financial or legal problems.
- Shopping that impacts your life in an increasingly negative way but which— you can’t stop!
When does shopping become an addiction? According to Phillips it is has little or nothing to do with the items that are purchased or the painful receipt accompanying them. It has more to do with the reason why a person pulls out the credit card in the first place. Compulsive shopping occurs when people use shopping as a means to fix, process, or placate negative feelings. The cycle of addiction is consistent with gambling, binge drinking, and other addictive behaviors: the anticipation, the preparation and build up, the action that produces feelings of elation and euphoria, and then the let-down involving much disappointment, regret, and shame.
Phillips poses these questions to help a person determine if he or she is a compulsive shopper:
- Are you shopping to emotionally feel better – less sad, depressed, bored, lonely etc.?
- Are you shopping to avoid responsibilities?
- Are you shopping to ensure the love of others?
- Are you shopping to release anger?
- Are you shopping to fit an image as a way to boost self-esteem?
- Are you shopping to repair the loss of trauma?
- Are you shopping to find meaning in life, etc.?
Let’s say you answered yes to some or all of those. Now what? What the heck are you supposed to do between now and the hour Santa returns to the North Pole? Hide behind locked doors eating candy canes with hot chocolate? I especially liked Phillip’s tips on how to cope with holiday shopping:
- Be mindful of the pressures to purchase that bombard you in every mall and on every social media and avoid those places that are most difficult for you.
- Make a plan of what you need to purchase and stick to it.
- Avoid shopping when upset, tired or dealing with a problem.
- Get rid of credit cards and checkbooks that make compulsive shopping possible.
- Shop with a buddy who can help you limit excessive or inappropriate spending.
- Fill your holiday with memorable and enjoyable experiences that have nothing to do with shopping.
Originally published on Sanity Break at EverydayHealth.com.
Originally published on Sanity Break at EverydayHealth.com