Goodness knows, the pandemic has given a lot of us plenty of opportunities to shop online and there’s no doubt that buying something new often lightens our spirits, whether it’s clothes, gadgets or blowing money on a holiday. There are a constant flow of adverts in the media that reinforce our spending too. Shopping online on your phone or pc during work breaks or even the middle of the night can feel as if you’re not really spending money at all, but the consequences can be devastating and hard to control.
Although occasional spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing it can get out of control. We often joke about ‘retail therapy’ and use words like ‘shopaholic’ but if your own urges to shop, or those of someone close to you, become uncontrollable it’s no longer funny. If you’re spending beyond your means, compulsive shopping is as damaging for finances and relationships as alcoholism or gambling.
However, there are ways to break free but one of the first things to do is take it seriously. If you recognise that you’ve got a real problem, you may need extra support from friends and family and possibly a structured treatment programme to help you to quit. If someone you love suffers with this addiction, they’ll need a lot of support from you and other friends and family.
People who struggle with compulsive shopping often experience ups and downs and find that the urge is strongest when they’re feeling sad, depressed or angry. Going out and buying something new gives them a ‘high’ for a while but then they plummet when the realisation hits that they’ve spent even more money on a shopping spree.
If you recognise this in yourself, have started hiding what you’ve bought or find that you’re maxing out your credit cards and want to try to control these buying splurges, here are a few ways to start the process:
- Avoid online stores and shopping channels. Ask someone you trust to block these sites on your phone, pc and television and then secure a password, unknown to you, to unlock them.
- If you feel the urge to shop, do something constructive like exercise or take up an interest that doesn’t require you to spend a lot of money.
- If you’re going to the shops, write a list and stick to it.
- Work out a budget (there are lots of online budget sheets to help you) and make a plan to pay off the debts that you’ve built up.
- Your brain has become accustomed to the instant gratification of compulsive shopping and you’ll need the help of a support group to make changes. You could also ask your GP to refer you for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – there may be a long waiting list but it will be worth it as, although it’s not suitable for every type of issue, CBT is useful for helping change the ways you think and behave.
Once you’ve tried the above ways to manage compulsive shopping, you’ll start to relax and feel in control of your life again.
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