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Opening the Doors to Healthier and Stress-Free Living

A Column by Alice Abbott-Moore,
Content Access/Information Delivery Teams, Ekstrom Library

The Compulsion to Buy and $pend

Chances are we all know at least one person who tells us: "I felt depressed so I went out and shopped all day."

Unfortunately, folks who do shop when undergoing some type of duress put themselves into deeper emotional turmoil by going out and spending money. Some folks feel that if they go out and buy items, they will receive gratification very quickly. Yet, the gratification is usually short lived and the emotions that spurred the shopping occur again and are often worse. Particularly for those persons who are already in debt and for whom money is tight, buying more items just produce more debt.

Author Ruth Engs makes the following observations:

"People who shop Ďtill they drop and run their credit cards up to the limit often have a shopping addiction. They believe that if they shop they will feel better. Compulsive shopping and spending generally makes a person feel worse. It is similar to other addictive behaviors and has some of the same characteristics as problem drinking (alcoholism), gambling and overeating addictions."

"Compulsive shopping or spending can be a seasonal balm for the depression, anxiety and loneliness during the December holiday season. It also can occur when a person feels depressed, lonely and angry. Shopping and spending will not assure more love, bolster self-esteem, or heal the hurts, regrets, stress, and the problems of daily living. It generally makes these feelings worse because of the increased financial debt the person has obtained from compulsive shopping."

For some reason shopping addiction tends to affect more women than men; women often buy things they do not need.

Compulsive shopping is related to anxiety rather than depression. The compulsive shopper spends money to lower anxiety levels. It is important to find out what causes the personís anxiety. One major cause could be in the personís past and may involve denial of material possessions. Now the person overcompensates for fear that there will not be enough.

Another reason could be worry over the opinions of others; in other words, one feels worthwhile only if others approve of him or her via his or her material possessions.

Still others try to fill emotional voids by fulfilling themselves by purchasing desirable things. This creates the illusion of success and happiness. Unfortunately, "the joy is short-lived and is no substitute for the enjoyment that other values -- friendship, romantic fulfillment, career fulfillment -- could offer," (The Living Resource Center).

Signs and Symptoms of Compulsive Spending/Shopping

Characteristics of Compulsive Shoppers

(Four or more of the above may indicate a possible problem with shopping or spending)

One can prevent shopping binges by doing the following:

If the previous list does not help, the following are suggestions for further assistance:

Buying or wanting material possessions isnít unhealthy, unless it excessive, for the wrong reasons, and if it takes away from the other aspects of life such as children, friendships, romance, career, etc. Oneís material possessions need to be a consequence, rather than a first cause. In other words: A person needs to buy because one is already happy, and wish to celebrate -- not buy in order to make oneself happy (The Living Resource Center).


Engs, Ruth. "How can I manage compulsive shopping and spending (Shopoholism)".

The Living Resources Center. "Compulsive shopping."

Supervisor's Guide: Compulsive Spending/Shopping

(A Note to the Reader: Please note that this article is not intended to replace any medical, psychological or spiritual care, but is a topic for the improvement of life quality. ó A.A.-M)