Compulsive Shopping: Here’s How To Control It

What lies behind the desire to make compulsive purchases? How can we react to this impulse? In this article we talk about purchases as a strategy to deal with anxiety, but also about strategies to avoid giving in to temptation.
Compulsive shopping: here's how to check it

Resisting compulsive shopping is a tall order for some people. Buyers have trouble controlling the urge to buy items they don’t need; he does this because buying something lowers his anxiety levels, caused by other worries. From this point of view, compulsive purchases are transformed into a sort of relief valve, with serious consequences.

After the relief from the purchase, the individual feels intense malaise, mostly accompanied by guilt. Here, after the initial enthusiasm, anxiety returns. In this article, we present some strategies for controlling compulsive shopping.

Girl with compulsive shopping syndrome.

Characteristics of compulsive shopping

Compulsive buying is usually associated with impulse control disorders (ICDs) . It is known as oniomania and can be a symptom of mood, eating and personality disorders. The main characteristics of the morbid impulse to buy would seem to be the following:

  • Purchase of unnecessary items.
  • Onset of anxiety and excessive worry about possessing an object.
  • Insomnia caused by the desire to own a certain item.
  • Uncontrollable desire to buy.
  • Immediate satisfaction following the purchase and relief from unpleasant symptoms.
  • Sense of guilt and dissatisfaction.

Owning the desired objects generates immediate satisfaction. Nonetheless, at a later time the person may feel embarrassed or guilty for not having been able to control an impulse that led him to buy an asset he did not need and that affects his finances or self-image ( dissonance with the concept of self).

The feeling of having done wrong causes compulsive shoppers to hide their behavior, their conduct and the consequences on the family’s finances. Sometimes these feelings of shame can turn into an additional reason to buy, because the individual associates the immediate satisfaction given by the purchase with the relief from unpleasant sensations.

Emotions associated with the purchase and long-term consequences

Malaise is the predominant state before the purchase. A malaise that has every intention of finding relief in consumption. This state of mind is reflected in the desire to buy the “magic potion” against all evil.

However, this “magic potion” has consequences: on the one hand, shopping causes feelings of guilt in the long run. A new malaise that will trigger the impulse to a new purchase. This is the vicious circle behind any addiction, which intensifies as the degree of tolerance increases (you have to consume / buy more to get relief).

On the other hand, economic difficulties can become evident, leading the person to borrow or sell personal items to get enough money to finalize the purchase.

Strategies for controlling compulsive shopping

First, you need to undergo psychotherapy to keep compulsive shopping in check and to keep your guard up during times when the risk of shopping may increase. For example, when the individual spends more time at home, with access to the Internet and online shopping portals.

At the same time, the family should recognize the main symptoms of this disorder in order to be an active part of the treatment. Otherwise, there is a risk that the family is responsible for unpleasant emotions and feelings, belittling the person and blaming him for economic problems.

This dynamic can become a further trigger for a purchase aimed at alleviating the malaise. Below we present guidelines to prevent this unpleasant situation.

Avoid credit and debit cards to escape compulsive shopping

Paying in cash gives us greater awareness of the amounts spent. “It hurts more” to pay in cash than by card. An intermediate solution can be to use prepaid cards that allow us to spend only the budget allocated to purchases.

Establish a ceiling for monthly or weekly purchases

Set a maximum amount to spend on the purchase of non-essential items. Avoid giving a hand to the satisfaction obtained by increasing this ceiling. Rewarding ourselves when we manage to accomplish what we set out to do is highly positive, but we do not recommend doing it with something that stimulates the purchase.

In this regard, we can share our problem with someone and rejoice in the compliments we are given after sharing our progress.

Reach shopping centers by public transport

This strategy will prompt us to think twice before moving on. Making purchases will take us longer and therefore becomes more complicated. In many cases, having to deal with lines and crowds will make us give up.

Make a consumption check to avoid compulsive shopping

Doing an expense check at the weekend or at the end of the month allows you to take stock of the money on items that were not needed. This also allows us to  observe the type of items we tend to buy more often following a malaise.

Donna does some calculations.

Go out with cash to buy only what you need

This means going out with only enough money to make essential, pre-planned purchases ; in this way we will not be able to buy anything else. Reflecting on what is essential or not before purchasing is always useful. The state of malaise that leads to buying makes everything appear indispensable, but it is not so.

Keeping compulsive shopping at bay is no easy task. However, if not addressed, this problem can severely affect the individual’s life, interfering with the quality of his life and that of his family. Psychotherapy is a great help when we want to get out of this vicious circle.

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