Are You A Shopoholic?

Tammy Ruggles, BSW, MA

Jane opens her closet to find something to wear to her high school reunion, and happens upon a nice blouse in the back with the tags still attached. She asks herself, "Did I buy this?" Pawing through to the darkest reaches of the closet, she finds a second, and a third. Never been worn. Tags still on. "I don't remember buying these."

Bonnie comes home after a day of shopping, brain buzzing, feet aching, arms laden. Her husband, Ted, has arrived home early from work, so Bonnie leaves all but the smallest shopping bag in the trunk of the car. "Find anything, honey?" Ted asks pleasantly as he looks up from the football game. "Oh, just a couple of things. A paperback and a lipstick that was on sale." Feeling her face getting hotter and redder, she slinks upstairs, telling herself she'll get the rest of the packages tomorrow.

Call it shopoholism. Call it compulsive spending. Call it impulse buying. Blame it on our self-indulgent society, materialism, our credit card culture, easy-access Internet shopping, or advertising overdose, but there are an estimated 17 million compulsive shoppers in the United States, and over 90% of them are women.

We're not talking about the occasional shopping spree that almost everyone has indulged in at one time or another. We're not talking about shopping that has to happen to keep a family going. We're talking about a serious condition that involves depression, uncontrollable emotions, and places personal relationships and financial security at risk.

It's the butt of many jokes, and has even spawned a few funny books and situations in TV comedies, but for some, it's no laughing matter. If you think you may be a compulsive shopper or know someone who is, take this test or pass it on to someone else.

Answer yes or no to the following 10 questions:

  1. Do you shop to lift yourself up when you're feeling down?

  2. Has your shopping caused problems in your personal relationships?

  3. Do you feel a "buzz" when you shop that is followed by a feeling of depression?

  4. Do you own clothes you don't wear, discover items you don't remember buying, and have things you don't use?

  5. Do you feel rash, irresponsible, even disoriented when you shop?

  6. Do you lie to family and friends about how much money you spend or what purchases you make?

  7. Do you continue to shop, even when you feel guilty and distressed about the debt you're creating?

  8. Do you hide receipts and purchases from others when you get home from a shopping trip?

  9. Have you ever chosen to buy frivolous items instead of necessities for your family?

  10. Do you borrow money from family and friends to go shopping, and worry about how you're going to pay them back?

Answering yes to 4 or more questions should cause concern.

If you're looking for help or more information for yourself or someone else, there are some quick fixes like cutting up your credit cards, taking a limited amount of cash with you when you shop, and writing down a budget to see where your money is going and how you can change your spending habits in the future. There are also more intense, in-depth remedies available, like credit counseling, personal therapy, and medication.

Let's find a way to put the fun back into shopping. It shouldn't have to be a secret obsession that robs us of our money, credit, self-esteem, and relationships.

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