Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Help for compulsive shoppers

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There’s hope, according to this LA Times article by Melissa Healy:

In a land where citizens are implored to shop as an expression of patriotism, where little girls can attend summer camp cruising the stores of a mall, and where the average credit-card holder is $1,673 behind in payments, buying things in the United States is more than a hunt for daily provisions. It’s a national pastime, a form of therapy, a means of self-expression.

But for more than 1 in 20 Americans, shopping is something darker. A study published in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry found that at some point in the lives of an estimated 5.8% of the U.S. population, shopping will become a source of shame, a cry for help, the cause of job losses and broken relationships, a road to financial ruin. They are “compulsive buyers” — troubled by intrusive impulses to shop, prone to lose track of time while doing so, plagued by post-purchase remorse, guilt and financial woes and sometimes given up on by loved ones.

Related articles in the same issue of the LA Times:

Compulsive shopping: Is it a disorder?

Unlocking motive is the key to conquering compulsive shopping

Compulsive shopping: where to turn for help

As the drumbeat of depressing economic indicators accelerates, they are a group coming out of the closet.

“I get several calls a month from people who say, ‘I don’t know what you call it, but this is out of control,’ ” says psychiatrist Timothy Fong, director of UCLA’s Impulse Control Disorders Clinic and co-director of the university’s Addiction Medicine Clinic. For the truly addicted shopper, Fong says, “it’s not lack of willpower” that makes them unable to stop shopping. “It’s an inability to control impulses and desires and behaviors.”

Mental health professionals are actively debating how to label and treat these consumers’ problematic behavior. As they do so, clinics, self-help groups and therapists specializing in the care and rehabilitation of compulsive shoppers are popping up across the country like so many specialized boutiques. They have found no shortage of clients.

J.P., a 66-year-old Los Angeles man, is one of them. For six years a member of the 12-step group Debtors Anonymous (and so, following its rules, he’s declined to identify himself by name), J.P. calls himself “a constantly struggling compulsive shopper” and “a binge person” by nature. Echoing the observations of many compulsive shoppers and those who treat them, J.P. says that what seems to trigger his impulse to spring for something is “a feeling of needing to fix yourself . . . a sense of filling a void.”

J.P. says that buying something — in his case, costly services such as workshops and courses — would make him exuberant, give him a shot of energy and a sense of purpose. But the crash, which could come hours, days or weeks later when he realized he had succumbed to a costly impulse, has always been hard. “I feel suckered. I feel incompetent in a way that I didn’t feel before.

“It is an addiction,” says J.P. “It becomes an addiction because it feels the more you do this thing, the better you’re going to be. It’s completely wrongheaded, wrong thinking.”

Programs designed to address such wrong thinking are growing more numerous and better attended. In the last five years, Stanford University and UCLA have established treatment programs for those who report out-of-control shopping. A New York City therapist, after running group programs for three years from her office, is set to launch an at-home program for those who overshop.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2008 at 1:25 pm

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