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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Am I a Compulsive Shopper????

I am often asked, "is compulsive shopping a real disorder?" I usually answer with a question, "do you think it is a real problem?" I hate it when my questions are answered with a question, but really, I don't have an answer, exactly. I treat compulsive shopping in my psychotherapy private practice. I help people deal with the underlying hunger associated with over shopping, over eating, under eating, self mutilation, and so on, because, in their lives, doing these behaviors over and over again, although they can be deemed "normal" if done on a regular basis, for them, is destructive and helpful at the same time. How is over shopping helpful? It is helpful because it probably provides some type of containment, or regulation, of emotional states. Emotional regulation is an internal process that "should" occur in each person and develops from birth on ward. A mother teaches emotional regulation through such processes as gazing, cooing, wrapping a blanky around a crying baby, feeding, and holding, for example. These processes are usually done well enough and in some situations, they are not and the baby/child/teen/adult, has to develop other means to emotionally regulate and for many it is through the process of feeding, starving, buying, returning, bingeing, purging, cutting and healing. So, yes, compulsive shopping, is a real, troubling, effective disorder. It works and it doesn't work. Compulsive shopping regulates in the moment and also leads to financial complications, relationship discord and emotional turmoil. Do you think you are a compulsive shopper? I have found the seven criteria to determine if you are from Lee Eisenberg : 

1. You buy things even though you can’t afford them.
2. You believe others would be horrified if they found out about your spending habits.
3. You write checks even though you know there’s not enough in the bank to cover them.
4. If you have any money left at the end of a pay period, you feel compelled to spend it.
5. You make only the minimum payments on your credit-card statements (if you make any at all).
6. You feel anxious or nervous on days you don’t go shopping.
7. You buy things to make yourself feel better.