Thursday, January 17, 2013

SHOPPING ADDICTION

When we talk about addiction, we often think about drugs and alcohol. But some behaviors have just as many negative consequences when we depend upon them to fill a void within us. Shopping is one of those behaviors. A national study three years ago identified 17,000,000 people in the United States - or about 6% of the poplation as having a compulsive shopping disorder. Some of my patients who come in to address prescription abuse or alcohol dependence reveal more than one addiction. Compulsive shopping is very common as a crossover addiction. Shopping as a way to avoid feelings related to everyday struggles, and buying things a person does not need to substitute one feeling for another is a problem. Not paying rent or utilities and squandering monies on frivolous purchases only sets the stage for more struggles. Depression sets in because the person is not dealing with responsibility and they shop more. It becomes a vicious cycle. Watching a recent reality show about folks who are compulsive shoppers, I was struck by the fact that short-term intervention to change the shopping behavior was seen as the panacea to the problem. The reality, however, is that it takes more than an intervention on a 60-minute show. The important piece of the puzzle is to find out what preciptating event started the shopping behavior in the beginning. Was it something in childhood, or something more recent? Is the patient able to cope with crisis? Does the person have the skillset to manage his or her life. Behavior change takes a good year of weekly therapy to uncover causes for compulsive shopping. Some patients may need pharmacotherapy. Others will benefit from self-help in addition to therapy. But it is imperative to weed things out and make changes slowly. 60 minutes is a necessary time frame for a television show. But television only reflects reality. It is not reality - though the lines are definitely blurred
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3 comments:

Elena said...

This is such an interesting article! I definitely have some compulsive shopping issues myself but I never realized how many people share that with me. I recently read another blog that had some really valuable information on compulsive behaviors http://www.psychalive.org/2012/12/compulsive-shopping/, I highly recommend it!

Dr. Alicen said...

Thanks so much for your comment Elena. I am always interested to learn more myself. Will do!

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