Compulsive Shopping 101

Posted by Jill Chivers in Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

It’s rare to find an exquisitely written post about the real emotional journey that is compulsive shopping.

And that’s because it isn’t really a pretty journey.  It looks good – all those gorgeous bags with even more gorgeous contents can lead to a delusional sense that a lot of shopping, perhaps even too much shopping, is a good thing.

After all, anything that cute couldn’t be bad for you.  Could it?

But compulsive overshopping is as ugly as any other unhealthy or addictive behaviour.  Gambling, drinking, drugs.  None of those behaviours, done to excess, is pretty.  You only need one walking picture of drunken misery to realise how horrible drinking to excess is.

And overshopping is no different.  It just looks better than those other behaviours when done to excess.  The internal experience of feeling unable to control your spending habits, and feeling compelled to buy more, and more, and more, bears a remarkable resemblance to the internal experience of over drinking, or abusing drugs, or unhealthy gambling.

Which is why this story is so powerful.  In it, the author, pseudonym Maddy Demberg, shares the warts and all experience she had, and still has, with her compulsion to shop.

woman with shopping bags - compulsive overshopping

You can read the story in full in its original online location here.

The parts that leapt off the screen for me?

The entire article was compelling, but these quotes, taken from various points in the article (it’s definitely worth reading the entire article to read them in the order and context they were written in), were the ones that pounded on my heart and head:

Shopping takes me out of myself, out of my life. It removes me, with an artist’s precision, from reality and places me instead beneath the foggy spell of fantasy.

The bigger ones–the ones with Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus–were the ones we liked the most: these stores glittered with promise. As we snaked through the aisles we could see what we might become: beautiful, special, one of a kind. This desire was embedded in me, a magnet that still pulls me away from the dingy everyday of my life to this other preferable world with its glamour and hope.

Like magic, inside the frenzy of shopping, the world disappeared. No more budgeting of every dollar, no worrying about money, about where the next dollar was coming from, or whether or not our father could sell enough cars to bring enough money home to avoid being evicted again. Inside the swirl of shopping everything else vanished. It was as if we’d taken a pill or exited one world for another.

When I was twenty and homeless, with no friends and no job, I spent my last five hundred dollars, money I’d put aside for a month’s rent at the SRO I was living at, for an exquisite emerald green designer dress.

So what I do with regard to my compulsive shopping is similar to what I do with my food addiction. Both of these addictions have been with me most of my life. And both have always been, for me, not just about escaping but also about self-loathing and the incessant desire to be someone else.

To base my happiness on these things, these things that lose their power once I own them, is to set myself up for a lifetime of failure.

And like all the drugs I’ve had to give up, I know, deep inside, that giving up my compulsive shopping will make room for something real to happen.

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