QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Alcohol, Nicotine, & Other Drug Use Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

Is compulsive shopping an addiction? Why would a person become a compulsive shopper and how do you control it?

Answer

Compulsive shopping is not really an addiction because addictions involve some degree of physical dependence. Rather it is a compulsive behavior with some aspects of a lack of impulse control.

There are a multitude of ways that people can become compulsive shoppers and our society encourages people to spend, spend, spend. Look in nearly any medium today and you'll see messages like "Save $50!" (which, of course, means that you're only spending a little less but the bottom line is that money is flowing out of your pocket, not into it).

If you personally are experiencing difficulties controlling your spending, ask yourself "What short-term reward or pleasure do I get from buying something?" Do you buy things to help you feel better about yourself? Are you a nobody unless you're wearing the latest fashions?

To help control your compulsive shopping, try some of these tactics: Control your available cash & credit. Leave credit cards, your check book, ATM cards, and most of your cash at home, taking only a limited amount of money, or access to it with you. If you see something you really would like to buy, hold off and think about it for a day or two. Do you really need it or are you buying it to feel good about yourself? If after considering it for a while, you decide you need it, consider whether you can afford it given your budget.

Another option is to consider getting some counseling either with a credit counselor or with a professional counselor. Whichever option you choose, making a decision to control yourself is an important first step. And if at first you don't succeed, don't get discouraged. Continue trying different options until you find one (or a combination of tactics) that work for you. Good luck!

02/19/98

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