Everyday I receive at least five artistically photographed catalogues urging me to buy jewelry, evening wear, winter apparel, gadgets, cookware and foods. I get advanced sale coupons from department stores flattering me as a “preferred customer.” Commercials on TV and radio have ramped up the must-have-it consumerism. This is the time of year that I worry about my clients who are closet shopaholics – pun intended.

How can you tell if you are a shopaholic? I’m not going to give you one of those typical quizzes where if you check off even one category, you are diagnosed with a problem. And the way the questions are worded, you will surely have experienced at least one of the categories. You and I are both tempted and we succumb occasionally. However, excess shopping might be associated with:

  • Emptiness where shopping fills the void
  • Disappointment becomes a trigger
  • Debt or at least a financial drain
  • Impulse purchases
  • Weight control. If you weren’t shopping, you would be eating to fill up
  • Competition as you need to possess what others have
  • Quantity as you buy the same shirt in five different colors

Shopaholism is an addiction which like all addictions gives you a temporary high until the next fix which eventually has to be bigger. And like other addictions it stems from a lack of self-esteem, loneliness, emptiness and a generalized feeling that you have lost control of your life. Worthy to note that most shopaholics are women! Every time you surrender to the impulse, it is like taking a step backward in your life. For example, when the credit card bills come in, your spouse asks you to account for your expenditures. He chides you like a silly school girl for spending too much on clothes and accessories, threatening to cancel your credit cards. Is this a relationship based on equality and mutual respect? What has happened is that the man in your life has assumed control and become your father figure. And on the other hand, ask yourself this question: Do you respect what you are trying to achieve together as a team by spending money that puts the two of you into debt or jeopardizes your future by not saving? Shopaholism can seriously undermine your relationship and your identity.

To help control the urge:

  • Figure out the root cause. What triggers you to go shopping? Keep a log. Distract yourself by calling up friends and maybe going out with them, except don’t go shopping! Don’t even have lunch in the mall. Try exercising because it is a great distraction and will sweat out the desire to shop.
  • Write a list of what you need and what you want. Know the difference! Read your list before you make any purchases. Keep checking your list while you shop.
  • Stay away from the stores during holiday season. Throw the catalogues in the garbage; don’t open them. Don’t watch shopping channels or go online to shop.
  • Shop with cash – no credit cards!
  • Gift giving? Don’t use gifts as an excuse to shop. This year become more spiritual and give a part of yourself or donate to charities in your friends’ names. You can create gifts from your spirit self: Bake, garden, knit, paint, write and sing.
Author's Bio: 

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com