-“Doctor…I can’t resist it—got to keep buying lots of stuff all the time.”

Claire X. is a nice middle-aged woman with a good job and a supportive family that feels nonetheless obliged to visit the mall 2 or 3 times per week in order to browse what’s on offer and buying lots of unneeded merchandise.She is suffering from a defined psychological condition: compulsive buying.

The psychological factors at play in this alteration are usually the following:

  1. Desire for approval and recognition from others
  2. Bolstering of the self-esteem
  3. Escapism into a self-designed fantasy world
  4. Weak defenses against consumerist propaganda
  5. Social pressure “to have” instead of “to be”
  6. Passive-aggressive expression of anger against someone

Helga Dittmar, a researcher at Sussex University, says there are two factors:

  1. Discrepancy between the perceived actual self and the desired one
  2. Attachment to material values in contrast to spiritual ones

All humans dream awake and have a somewhat slightly different view of who they really are; it’s one of the strongest motors of our daily lives as it prods us to strive in becoming better persons when someone respected by us points at the discrepancy. As such it represents, with the interminable task of child-bearing, the most important role of women in a couple’s relationship.

Like in Alcohol Abuse, Overeating and Sexual Promiscuity, the splurging on goods and services apparently is desperately needed by some persons to fill that “existential gap”; some “prestige goods” rank higher in that priority list. The mendacious advertisement in the TV, radio and print media disguise those goods as needed accoutrements “to be someone” and “express values.” It is much more common for women to use this “identity repair” than men.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

4 thoughts on “The compulsive shopper

  1. It is connected with escapism for sure.

    Now, let’s not forget that lower self-esteem, impulsive behavior, mood swings, as well as depressive or anxiety disorders are often common with compulsive shoppers. Interestingly, as you said, most C.S. are women, that is young, and less-educated ones who, I read once, used some sort of substance like alcohol, tobacco or drugs. What do you think, dottore?

    1. Perfect commentary. You should read the scene in my novel where Annie, Emily’s cousin and confidante, gets seduced by a salt-shaker to rob it while she was queuing up to pay at Bloomingdale’s. Yes, in my novel many objects become alive with varied feelings and words.

  2. Very true to some extent but a desire to “fit in” and the resultant peer group pressure plays a larger role than we sometimes admit. Not much room for “individuals” in the USA business/social world.
    Men are subject to the same conformity issues but do their “ego stroking” with larger ticket items. As an Advertising major, I comprehend the other side of the coin…encourage them to BUY/INCREASE SALES.
    There are industry standards and watchdog monitors for truthful ads although embellishment and trigger points are allowed. ( Why are curvy pretty ladies used in car ads??)
    Companies are not responsible for the consumers’ issue ridden psychology.Ad Agencies actually use these tendencies to formulate campaigns.
    No harm done if a new Jimmy Choo shoe makes that Lady HAPPY or that $50 lipstick ( at a manufacturers cost of 30c) gives her HOPE to find that perfect ( non-existent) MAN….
    As we mature, we have to find our comfort zone by doing our internal /spiritual work in order to develop confidence to “swim against the tide” if necessary.
    Life is all about Learning.

    Listen up that new electric BMW is in MY favorite color….I want it….could knock years off my “look”. Ha ha ha

    1. My dearest Island Woman: good morning and Happy Easter to you. Thank you very much for giving us “the other tolling of the bell” in this controversial social issue. If that utterly overpriced lipstick is going to give the lady with emotional frustration a satisfying, albeit ephemeral, sense of well being, pour quoi pas? After all my blog series is all about unmasking the cause of that modern emotional plague and to find ways to temper it and hopefully eliminate it. By the way, you don’t need any piece of metal to knock off a few years off your semblance. Just open that beautiful mouth of yours and delight all of us with your mellifluous discourse that make us dream. Un gross baccione. Arrivederci!

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