Retail Therapy Is Not A Good Cure For Shopaholics
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
I am a 25-year old wife and mother with financial problems and I need your help.
When I am under stress, which is most of the time, or I am sad, bored or lonely; I use “retail therapy” as a temporary escape from my problems. My husband says that I am a shopaholic and he is right.
Ironically, when the price of gas was higher my problem was under better control because I couldn’t afford to drive to the malls and shopping centers as frequently.
I have fallen in a vicious cycle of shopping and spending that only results in temporary happiness. This brief stage of the cycle then craters into to guilt, anxiety and depression. In an attempt to escape from these painful emotions, I then shop and spend, thus completing the cycle. Can you help me?
-A reader in California
Compulsive spending is similar to other problems, such as substance abuse and gambling, where excessive repetition may produce a temporary sense of relief or escape from pain.
Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful.
• Stop using credit cards.
• Avoid shopping alone, instead shop with someone who can help you monitor your behavior.
• Make a list before starting to shop. Vow to stick with the list.
• Learn to delay the need for gratification. If you see something you think you want while shopping, try walking away from it for awhile and see if you still want this item later in the day or perhaps the next day.
• Avoiding shopping when under stress.
• Evaluate purchases in terms of necessity rather than desire.
• Live on a budget.
• Seek healthy outlets for tension and frustration. Increase times spent in healthy, non-shopping activities, such as volunteer work, hobbies, and time with friends and family.
• Seek professional counseling, if necessary.
The book I Shop Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying & the Search for Self by April Lane Benson may also be of help to you.
Let me compliment you on your insight into your potentially destructive pattern of behavior that can wreak havoc on you and those you love. Jokes and fun are often directed at compulsive shoppers and spenders, but for those with this serious problem, humor is inappropriate. Unfortunately, the financial debacle you describe is all too common in our society but a consistent effort to change your behavior can lead to positive results.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2008