Are you a shopaholic?


We all go on shopping sprees, but if you aren’t even bothering to unpack the new purchases afterwards, then you might have a shopping addiction. — dpa

Browse, grab, buy: For lots of people, shopping is a lot of fun.

And on some days, the booty is bigger than usual: three pairs of shoes, a food processor, a coat and two books maybe.

Is that excessive though? Could it be a sign of a shopping addiction?

“You can’t generalise – it depends on the situation,” says Germany‘s Hanover Medical School Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy head psychologist Dr Astrid Müller.

The purchase of all these items may have been necessary and affordable.

Perhaps some of the things at home were defective and had to be replaced.

So it may not have been an episode of a shopping addiction, variously known as oniomania, compulsive buying disorder (CBD), buying-shopping disorder (BSD) or shopaholism.

“What’s problematic is a very high purchase frequency marked by a loss of self-control,” says head psychologist Nadja Tahmassebi at the Salus Clinic for addictions and psychosomatic disorders in Friedrichsdorf, Germany.

A shopping addict completely loses interest in the purchased item as soon as they’ve brought it home, she remarks.

“Sometimes, they don’t even unpack it.”

Nevertheless, their urge to keep buying new things doesn’t diminish, even though they don’t need them and may not be able to afford them.

The consequence is often financial distress, Dr Müller says.

What causes compulsive buying though?

“An inferiority complex could be behind it, or self-image problems,” she explains.

Some shopaholics may be strongly oriented towards material value.

This means that status symbols are very important to them and they define themselves by what they own, not what they are.

“Many shopping addicts also suffer from depression and anxiety disorders,” Tahmassebi points out.

What’s insidious about the problem is that “they block out their shopping addiction for a long time,” Dr Müller says.

“They don’t examine their buying behaviour.”

They purchase things to reward or calm themselves, and are unable to control their excessive shopping.

Not until the negative consequences get out of hand – when their debts pile up, for example – do they realise that something is wrong.

If you think that you might be a shopaholic, a first step you can take is to impose spending limits on yourself.

“This means budgeting precisely how much money you can spend for what”, such as for clothing, cosmetics and so on, Tahmassebi says.

You should also have your bank cancel your ability to overdraw your account.

Another precautionary measure is to pay only in cash and cut up your credit cards.

Here’s a further tip: “Keep a log of all your purchases and how much money you spent for them,” suggests Dr Müller.

And you could regularly look into your wardrobe and dressers to convince yourself that you don’t need any new clothes.

If all else fails, psychotherapy is advisable, most likely cognitive behavioural therapy aimed at identifying the cause of the excessive shopping.

Should it be found to serve as a reward, alternatives can be sought.

”This is often a difficult process,” says Dr Müller, because it requires finding something that gives the shopaholic a “high” similar to the one they got by buying things.

Maybe it could be the reward of a hot bath after a stressful day, for example.

What works varies from person to person.

“When all’s said and done, it’s essentially a matter of giving something up, and that’s what’s hard,” she says.

Therapy frequently helps shopaholics get their addiction under control.

How long it lasts is another question.

“Relapses are always possible,” notes Tahmassebi.

What should you do if you suspect that someone close to you, perhaps a good friend or your father, has a shopping addiction?

Dr Müller says you shouldn’t be afraid to address the matter “considerately and respectfully”.

You could encourage the person to visit a counselling centre, such as one specialising in addiction aid.

A low-threshold option is online counselling. – By Sabine Meuter/dpa

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Addiction , shopping , mental health


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