The reality of a shopping addiction

Beibhinn Thorsch

Knocklyon House, or The Rutland Centre, is a treatment centre for addictions. The centre, while used to the classic addictions of alcohol, drugs, gambling, and eating disorders, has now become no stranger to clients facing the problem of compulsive shopping.

Compulsive shopping, or shopping addiction, is an impulse control issue which can have huge impacts on the life of the spender. The Huffington Post described some of the symptoms of the issue. Having multiple clothes you’ve never worn or unopened items that you have bought, buying things you haven’t planned to, frustration makes you want to shop, purchases are followed by feelings of remorse, you try to conceal your shopping habits, and you feel a kind of “high” when you buy. Buying several varieties of the same object, or often using shopping as a feel-good tool are other symptoms. 

Finding distractions and identifying triggers are some of the ways to curb the addiction. However, antidepressants have proven to be useful in treating the issue also. Speaking to the Irish Times, Adrian Lee director at the Promis Counselling Centre in Kent and London which also offers help to compulsive shoppers, “The concentration by society on a materialist fantasy world is the problem,” he said. “People no longer have a spiritual base and it is this void they attempting to fill.” Compulsive shoppers also have found some help in following the 12 step programme, originally set up for drug addicts and alcoholics. 

The ease of online shopping has only served to increase this addiction astronomically, with the luxury of being able to spend while in the comfort of your own home and the ability to spend hours on end finding any type of product. New services such as “Afterpay” also keep the only hard part of shopping at bay – the part where you actually spend money. Setting up incremental spending over a longer period so the punch doesn’t hit in quite the same way. 

The problem becomes clearest when those around you or you yourself notice the reduced quality of life, hoarding habits, family division, work issues, and financial problems. These are all symptomatic of any addiction, and the normalcy of shopping is not excluded from this. To the addict, the easily available excuses of “but I need clothes to survive!” can be likened to food addiction (a more accepted or better-known form of addiction), where one of the largest difficulties in overcoming the addiction is that eating is necessary to survive – and therefore a necessary part of everyday life.

Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger was interviewed by GQ about how his own shopping addiction led him to spend more than $600,000 (€467,000) in three years. This shows that while many women have spoken out about their struggles with this addiction, it is not an issue affecting women alone. 

In light of this growing issue, many recovery centres and sufferers of the addiction are attempting to raise awareness of the dangers and prevalence of shopping addiction and impulse control issues in order to prompt research and push individuals to get help where they can.

Beibhinn Thorsch

Image Credit: Stock Snap