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Compulsive Shopping

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Compulsive Shopping

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red copper
I have a problem I have to manage and usually do a pretty good job of. Twice in the last 4 years I've realised I've let my shopping get out of control, no debt was incurred either time (I'm a pretty sensible person, which helps a lot) but both times I had difficultly paying for normal expenses due to having spent too much on my obsessional items. My preoccupation with whatever it is has an impact on my interactions with other humans, ignoring them whilst I scour online stores/Google etc looking for my 'rare' item of choice of the moment....


Most recently I let my shopping compulsion take over during a bout of depression. I work 4 days a week in a reasonably well paying job and don't have any large ongoing expenses so it wasn't having a negative impact, which allowed me let it run wilder and wilder. Then my partner, who is unwell, decided he wasn't able to keep working. I was happy to help him but by now the excessive shopping was habitual, I was so swept up in it I didn't realise I was whittling away my buffer money. Then the bills arrived and for the first time I had to pay for them completely by myself, all $500 of my remaining savings was gone and I only had a small amount of money left. Even then, worrying about whether I would have enough to buy food, I had a very hard time holding back from buying jewelry. As soon as I got paid again I went on another spree. It became plainly evident to me I was out of control. I don't even know how much I spent, or why I didn't instead hold back until I had built up more savings. I was left again with only just enough money to buy food.

What motivates this? I seem to be repeating the same action again and again, like a rat in a cage pressing a lever for food, seeking gratification I had once received from a similar action. The objects I buy are invested with subjective value and mean more to me when I am buying them then their monetary value, which means sometimes I get swept away buying this or that merely because I don't already own it or because I haven't seen anything like it before - with no thought for the real use it will have for me when it arrives in the mail. This has been less of a problem with my jewelry obsession than it was with my compulsion for buying Chinese brocade jackets on eBay auctions 4 years ago, which I still have in the back of my wardrobe today, unworn and beautiful. At least that experience has left me with the knowledge of how to bring my spending back under control today (now I have finally gained insight into my behaviour and have the desire to change). 

The secret? To become aware of what the item you compulsively buy means to you, how chasing that fantasy uninhibited prevents you from really attaining the things these items symbolise and how much you lose by letting your compulsions run free. I've also decided to focus more on quality than quantity  and make myself delay gratification by saving for special items (Luciferins, Anatometal opal eyelets etc). 

So my question to you is this: how many of you fit this description of oniomania (compulsive buying) on Wikipedia? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oniomania
  • FWIW, your connection to the compulsive shopping and depression seems to be a very valid one. After I had my daughter, about 3 months in I developed postpartum. Despite my hatred for shrinks I went to one after a few months because, well, I was the only caregiver and obviously needed help. One of the first things he asked me about was compulsive shopping.

    I realized while I wasn't spending a lot of money on things (or not paying bills, etc), I don't know how many times I'd go get some art supplies, or something like that, and they were still in the shopping bags on my craft table at home. I had like 6 bags of unopened stuff and it wasn't till he asked me about it I clued in to what I was doing.

    I dealt with it by sticking to a list when I go out, waiting 24 hours for any non-essential purchases, not buying any supplies for new projects when I haven't finished old ones yet, and not online "shopping". No ebay, etsy, and I still stick to that. Now I don't even open gaugetrade entries when I know I don't need anything over 5ish pairs of what size I'm stretching to, cause otherwise I know I'd go crazy.

    (tangent- The "doctor" absolutely didn't help though. I was seeking help from depression because I was caring for a baby and wanted to be giving her a better quality of life, he kept giving me meds that made practically gave me a lobotomy, unable to function, brilliant! Sorry, Im still bitter... and hate shrinks even more now :P)
    • I live in Australia so online shopping is a must if I want to ever buy anything interesting. After the last issue I am banned from online Auctions though and I have never broken that rule *pats self on back*.I am going to limit the amount of time I spend looking at online stores though. I should probably only be looking at them once a week max but I tend to look at at least one store everyday until very recently. One of my new rules is going to be that I can only buy jewelry once a month, probably around the BAF coupon sale time. It would be great if I could stick to that :-D
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