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2nd February 2018
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27th February 2018

How to beat a shopping addiction

7th February 2018

In an extract from her book “Better With Money” our author Jo Thresher discusses compulsive buying and how you can beat it

We use “Shopaholic” as a fun term and there are films and books about shopaholic characters. But a shopaholic is a person addicted to shopping. Are you really, actually addicted?

The medical term for a shopping addiction is compulsive buying disorder or oniomania, from the Greek words onios and manis –literally ‘sale insanity’. Something to think about the next time you’re deciding whether to go to the Boxing Day sales?

In an article in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy in 2009, Stephen Kellett and Jessica Bolton defined compulsive buying as ‘experienced as an irresistible–uncontrollable urge, resulting in excessive, expensive and time-consuming retail activity [that is] typically prompted by negative affectivity’ and results in ‘gross social, personal and/or financial difficulties’.

Ruth Engs, former professor of Applied Health Sciences at Indiana University, found that some people develop a shopping addiction because shopping triggers the release of happy hormones, endorphins and dopamine. Engs claimed that ten to fifteen percent of the population may be predisposed to these feelings (http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/hints/shop.html).

If you truly think you are addicted to shopping and experience an uncontrollable urge which is (or probably will end up) causing you difficulty, sadness and debt, can I gently suggest you consult a medical professional? There are many treatments for addictive disorders but for shopping addiction group therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be very successful. So, stop reading and reach out. You can come back to this book once you’ve got the personal support you need.

If you’re not actually addicted, but use the word shopaholic to excuse and make light of your over-spending here are some tips to help:

  • What’s your favourite shop? Google its managing director and its board members. Print their pictures. Stick them in your purse. Next time you want to buy something in your favourite shop you will know where the money is going. Perhaps put a picture of you or your loved ones looking happy in there as well. Take a moment to think whether the item will make you, or them, happy?
  • Do something else. Instead of going into town shopping go to a green space or beach to clear your head. Take a picnic
  • Have some goals. Work towards them every single day. Make something pretty and visual to remind yourself of them and stick it in your purse or wallet
  • Allocate treat money. Plan how much of your money you can afford to spend on treats. Aim to stay within that amount and give yourself a pat on the back when you do
  • Read a book. Make a pot of tea, curl up on the sofa and escape to someone else’s world for a few hours
  • Before you hand over your credit or debit card, check your feelings. Are you shopping because you feel sad or happy? Has something happened that made you feel this way? Ask the shop to put the item aside for an hour and go for a walk to review whether it’s something you need, can afford, will use and will still love in a week’s time
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