It’s that time of year when dozens of text messages remind you that the shopping holidays are here again. You log on to the online supermarket because you’ve run out of hand sanitiser or paper towels at home. As a result, you can’t resist putting a hundred things in your shopping cart, even though they’re not on your shopping list when you see all the sales.

This is the time of year when the news is full of bizarre examples of shopping frenzies. We often use the term “shopaholics to refer to people who spend money on impulse. In psychology, such behaviour is known as compulsive shopping.

What is compulsive shopping? There is nothing wrong with shopping within normal limits. You often spend money without thinking about what you are buying or why you are buying it; you don’t think about how much money you have left when you spend it;  you use shopping as a way of generating pleasure or rewarding yourself; you can’t stop wanting to have something when you think that one of your friends already has it you hide your purchases and receipts and lie about what you really spend; you don’t use many of the things you buy; you regret every purchase but you can’t stop …… Then you may be a compulsive shopper. 

Shopping is indeed a form of adaptive behaviour when it is not compulsive and can have a mood-boosting effect, and some people even jokingly suggest the use of ‘shopping therapy’ to deal with emotional problems. But when there is a deep-seated emotional problem, shopping can only have a temporary numbing effect on you.

When it comes to the causes of compulsive shopping, there is no escaping childhood: when we are young, if we are ignored by our parents or others, we turn to alternative comfort items – such as toys and snacks. This sense of deprivation continues to affect us, and in adulthood, the same emotional support is sought, when shopping replaces toys and snacks as alternative comfort items. 

When you are particularly spiritually empty, you will want to fill the emptiness with buying. The result is only more emptiness unless you find spiritual sustenance. When you’re reluctant to face your current predicament, you’ll want to release the stress of buying. The result is a worse situation unless you fight the urge to face it and curb your desire to run away. When your material self dominates your spiritual self, then your path of buying will never stop because you will always be lacking, lacking clothes, lacking shoes …… what you are actually lacking is – facing yourself, even if you feel bad about yourself, but it can’t be any worse than it is now can it?

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