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Compulsive Shopping Carries a Heavy Price

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Compulsive Shopping Carries a Heavy Price

Old 09-30-05, 04:18 PM
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Compulsive Shopping Carries a Heavy Price

This article doesn't mention DVDs, but I think it's relevant to some of the comments that I see in this forum.

http://www.healthday.com/view.cfm?id=528132

Compulsive Shopping Carries a Heavy Price
Pathological buying is linked to insecurity, and it's on the rise, experts say

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- For a rising number of Americans, shopping has become more than a means to an end, or a pleasurable pastime.

Instead, experts say, members of this growing group of "compulsive shoppers" feel low when they're not out shopping, and yearn for that special "high" that comes from browsing and buying.

Unfortunately, that high is usually short-lived: For most, the day's spending usually ends in renewed anxiety and sadness as they return home and realize their latest acquisition isn't making them any happier -- and may have put them further into debt.

It's a cycle that's very reminiscent of other harmful pathological addictions, such as gambling, said researcher Helga Dittmar, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K.

"Compulsive buying is often smiled about and belittled, either as 'something we all do at times' or the entertainment of the bored ultra-rich," she said. "The reality is that it has serious consequences, like other addictions. It can lead to severe financial debt, breakdown of relationships and families, and impairment at work and at home."

According to the last U.S. statistics available -- collected in a 1992 study -- compulsive shopping affected anywhere between 2 percent and 8 percent of Americans at that time. But experts believe prevalence of the disorder has risen since then.

Dittmar is the author of a new study investigating the psychological roots of compulsive buying, published in the September issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

In the study, Dittmar used data from the personal "shopping diaries" of 29 women (18 ordinary shoppers, 11 compulsive shoppers), plus the results of detailed questionnaires from 365 adults of varying age, which also included a fair number of compulsive shoppers.

She was able to pinpoint two "vulnerability factors" that appear to raise risks for compulsive buying.

"The first is a materialistic value system, the importance that a person attaches to material goods as a way of achieving major life goals, such as satisfaction and happiness," according to Dittmar. In essence, she said, "materialists are more prone to go for material goods as a solution to any problem they might encounter."

The second factor "concerns the self-concept, where a person who feels that they are far away from their 'ideal' self is more vulnerable to psychological problems," Dittmar said.

In this type of situation, materialistic individuals may turn to excessive spending as a form of what she called "self-repair."

"They'll buy those consumer goods that symbolize a part of their ideal self -- 'If I buy a glamorous dress, I might feel like a glamorous person,' " Dittmar explained.

In fact, the vast majority of compulsive shoppers -- about 90 percent -- are women, and Dittmar's study found clothing to be a major focus of their spending, probably because fashion is so tightly tied to self-image.

Women may also be more prone to the syndrome because shopping is traditionally viewed as a part of female, but not male, identity. And because some women are homemakers, Dittmar said that "they may have less opportunity for other "feel-good" strategies," like working out at the gym or meeting friends for drinks.

The compulsive buyers' personal shopping diaries revealed that most of the "good feelings" generated by their excessive spending is fleeting.

The journals showed that "their initial 'high,' straight after the purchase, was stronger than for ordinary buyers -- but also that the high was short-lived," the researcher said. In fact, compulsive shoppers were much more prone than ordinary spenders to experience "buyer's remorse" once they got their goods home.

"For some people, shopping is all about the thrill of the hunt; for some, it's the high of the purchase; and for some, it's the socialization with the salesperson -- the acknowledgement and reinforcement they get," said April Lane Benson, a New York City psychologist specializing in "overshopping," and the author of I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self.

She agreed with Dittmar that materialism and poor self-image help drive the condition. While the latest statistics on the prevalence of compulsive shopping are still being tabulated by researchers, Benson believes the disorder is on the rise, especially among the young, and has spread to become a "global problem."

And she believes men's spending habits often allow them to go under the radar as compulsive buyers.

"They're 'image-spenders' more often than women, meaning that they pick up the tab when they have no business doing so, for example," Benson said. Men are also more prone to becoming pathological "collectors," addictively amassing one class of object, often going in debt to do so.

"Collecting is a way of buying compulsively, of course, but it becomes a more highbrow or refined caste," she said.

Avoiding or curbing these types of compulsive behaviors may involve stepping back and re-evaluating what's really important, Dittmar said.

For most people, the "ideal me" will always elude their grasp, she said. So the true pathway to better self-esteem may lie in "picking those aspects that one can realistically do something about, and that are worth doing something about," Dittmar said.

That can be tough, given today's society. Both experts agreed that unrelenting pressure from advertising and the media are pushing people to spend more recklessly than ever before, and that spending is even easier now via 24-hour shopping channels and the Internet.

The media "bombard us with ideals and role models that are likely to make us feel inadequate and in need of 'fixing,'" Dittmar said. While most people won't be unduly swayed by any one ad or TV show, "it is difficult to evade the general message that 'We are what we have,'" she said.

Benson agreed: "'Happiness is the next purchase away,' is what we are being told."

More information

For more on compulsive buying, head to the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.

SOURCES: Helga Dittmar, Ph.D., senior lecturer, psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K.; April Lane Benson, Ph.D., psychologist, private practice, New York City, and author, I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self; September 2005 Journal of Clinical and Social Psychology

Last Updated: Sept. 28, 2005
Old 09-30-05, 04:20 PM
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Are you trying to "preach" to people here? Or did you intend for this to be in Other?
Old 09-30-05, 04:38 PM
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Actually, there's an interesting point to be made here as to how we buy and collect our DVDs. I know there are times when I feel like a compulsive collector -- absolutely must have a new release the day it comes out, when there's really no reason to. If I wait a week or two I might be able to find the same item at a cheaper price (ordering in advance is not always the most economical plan). Besides, as I keep telling myself, it may be weeks or even months before I'll actually sit down and watch that newest acquisition. And yet, there's that overwhelming *need* to have it *now*. For example, I put off getting the new Lugosi and Hammer sets for a few weeks, and found them at Costco for $18.99 each, the cheapest price I've seen anywhere. I'd also put the complete THE OFFICE (UK) on my mental wish list, and finally found it at Costco as well for cheaper than anywhere on line. I bought it, and am enjoying it more now than if I'd watched it when it was first released, since I'd forgotten a lot of the jokes. I'm not pushing Costco here, but there are times when yeah, I do feel manipulated. I bought the new BEN-HUR (at Costco...Gawd...), although I had a perfectly good one in the previous flipper. And I still hadn't watched *that* one yet! So I don't feel the posting of this article is an intrusion, but it *is* a mite disquieting, if it makes us look too closely at our buying habits. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll stop nattering and figure out where I'm gonna glom onto the new Val Lewton collection...
Old 09-30-05, 04:58 PM
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That article needed more bolding.

From what I gather, it is advocating compulsive excercise and getting drunk with friends as alternatives to buying a new dress... right?
Old 09-30-05, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
Are you trying to "preach" to people here? Or did you intend for this to be in Other?
Neither.
Old 09-30-05, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by The Escapist
Actually, there's an interesting point to be made here as to how we buy and collect our DVDs. I know there are times when I feel like a compulsive collector -- absolutely must have a new release the day it comes out, when there's really no reason to. If I wait a week or two I might be able to find the same item at a cheaper price (ordering in advance is not always the most economical plan). Besides, as I keep telling myself, it may be weeks or even months before I'll actually sit down and watch that newest acquisition. And yet, there's that overwhelming *need* to have it *now*. For example, I put off getting the new Lugosi and Hammer sets for a few weeks, and found them at Costco for $18.99 each, the cheapest price I've seen anywhere. I'd also put the complete THE OFFICE (UK) on my mental wish list, and finally found it at Costco as well for cheaper than anywhere on line. I bought it, and am enjoying it more now than if I'd watched it when it was first released, since I'd forgotten a lot of the jokes. I'm not pushing Costco here, but there are times when yeah, I do feel manipulated. I bought the new BEN-HUR (at Costco...Gawd...), although I had a perfectly good one in the previous flipper. And I still hadn't watched *that* one yet! So I don't feel the posting of this article is an intrusion, but it *is* a mite disquieting, if it makes us look too closely at our buying habits. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll stop nattering and figure out where I'm gonna glom onto the new Val Lewton collection...
So that's you that I keep running into at Costco. We need to stay out of there!
Old 09-30-05, 05:44 PM
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Dude, you really need to summarize things. Anyway, I didn't read the whole thing, but it sounds like picking up a DVD or two tonight might be just the thing I need to combat the crummy day I've had. Thanks for the (long winded) advice!
Old 09-30-05, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by grundle
This article doesn't mention DVDs, but I think it's relevant to some of the comments that I see in this forum.

http://www.healthday.com/view.cfm?id=528132
So, all malls here in $ocal are full of $ick people? No wonder I avoid them.

How does internet shopping jive with the research?

I like this one: "Collecting is a way of buying compulsively, of course, but it becomes a more highbrow or refined caste,"

Avoiding or curbing these types of compulsive behaviors may involve stepping back and re-evaluating what's really important
Since I don't have a life, my HT and the DVDs to feed it is all that matters!
Old 09-30-05, 07:43 PM
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Yeah, I guess I should stop all my compulsive shopping. Its really starting to cut into my cocaine money.
Old 09-30-05, 07:53 PM
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I'm cutting down to one purchase a week:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...v=glance&s=dvd
Old 09-30-05, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bboisvert
I'm cutting down to one purchase a week:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...v=glance&s=dvd
So what are you picking up next week, the Criterion Mega Collection??
Old 09-30-05, 11:18 PM
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Oh give me a break. Is EVERYTHING an illness now? I love the way that the media is to blame too. Aren't they the root of all evil?

What about reading? I read (from books) everyday, get a lot of pleasure from it, and often get irratated when I'm interupted. I guess that is a compulsive behavior too.

I only skimmed the article, but the thing that pisses me off about it is that they didn't identify any harmful effects. Could it be that some people just enjoy shopping? If you have the $$ to shop and you enjoy it, who is to say how much is too much?

(Not meant as an attack on the OP, just the psychologists in the article.)
Old 09-30-05, 11:21 PM
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That's why we have FT lists.
Old 09-30-05, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bboisvert
From what I gather, it is advocating compulsive excercise and getting drunk with friends as alternatives to buying a new dress... right?
Haha, I had the same thought as I read it. That really wasn't a good quote.

But the fact is, societal values, mores, and norms usually do exist for a good reason. That's not to say that everything society deems as appropriate or innapropriate is correct for every person or situation, but in a general sense they usually do exist for a reason.

I had a sociology professor who brought up this point regarding drinking. Social drinking is almost universally accepted, and drinking alone is almost universally frowned upon. In either case you are engaging in the exact same behaviour, so is there really a difference between the two? I think there is. The motivations and drives behind the two situations are different, and while you can't apply a set-in-stone rule to describe each situation for every person, there are very real generalizations you can make.

I used to work at GNC and I knew regular customers who clearly had major issues with excessive exercise and diet-pill consumption, and these issues would equal those of any other major addictive problem. From my perspective, they had low self esteem and engaged in these behaviors to make them feel better about themselves, and I would always figure that at the end of the day they didn't feel better at all. It seemed really unhealty. Of course the same thing can be attributed to people with alcohol problems.

But in general, for the average person, exercise is a healthy thing (mentally) and it can make you feel better about yourself in a positive, healthy way (at least in my opinion). Same with going out with friends, even if it means having a few drinks.

Going out to purchase objects in order to feel better about yourself seems much, much less healthy, IMO anyway. Of course I have been influenced by societal norms, but to me the norms are there for a reason. Of course there isn't black-and-white, it's all grey, but I think societal norms exist for a reason and are generally pretty good when it comes to putting people on the right path for happiness.
Old 09-30-05, 11:52 PM
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I failed to read it all also. I still buy around 10 a week. I call it dedication in completing my library....and rewards for busting my ass 12 hours a day. Hell, I buy so many anymore that I've failed to spend the time adding them to my on-line listings. The numbers say I own something like 2,033 titles...when it's actually more like 2,100.

I really need to update that damn thing. Maybe after surgery next week...I dunno.
Old 10-01-05, 12:41 AM
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I don't have a problem buying DVD's. I can stop whenever I want. Course, nowadays I buy everything from the local Blockbuster recycler. The former rentals that have no artwork, for 3 or 4 bucks each. Just have to wait a bit longer to get the newer titles. That, and the 5.50 bin at Walmart is where I find the occasional treasure.


Am I coming down with Danol syndrome?

Last edited by Forum Troll; 10-01-05 at 12:45 AM.
Old 10-01-05, 01:00 AM
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I have to say, DVD buying can become out of control just like most anything else.

In the last year, I have added at least one title a day to my collection on the average. I started keeping track of my purchases this year, and it's made me realize just how much of an obsession this has become...

January: 34
February: 47
March: 54
April: 49
May: 40
June: 49
July: 31
August: 26

September will be close to 1 per day. I almost had it at 1 every other day on the average, but then my DDD orders came in for the Anchor Bay sale, my Amazon.com box set sale, and my order of Law & Order SVU season 2 all came in on the same day. 12 titles (or 15 movies, since one of my titles was the 4 Omen movies in a box set).

My collection is around 700 titles. At least 150 of those are seasons of TV shows. I don't have the time to watch what I have already, yet here I am buying more.
Old 10-01-05, 02:05 AM
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Men are also more prone to becoming pathological "collectors," addictively amassing one class of object,
This part seems to ring true. For example, how does the male/female ratio work out with serious DVD collectors? Men seem more likely to collect "useless" things: sports stats and/or memorbilia, pop culture items and/or trivia (related to movies, TV, music, comics, etc), collectible toys, etc. I know I'm guilty of collecting several of these.
Old 10-01-05, 05:14 AM
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So what happens if you collect compulsive disorders?
Old 10-01-05, 06:39 AM
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This rings true for me...my sister in-law is the exact person described in the article. Needs to shop to feel good, even though their family doesn't have the cash. Their credit cards are usually maxed out, and they have zero savings.
Old 10-01-05, 11:56 AM
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Yeah, this article is about people with shopping addictions, where it gets to the point when it isn't "just casual shopping", when people go crazy to get a high from it all. It is like drugs, gambling, and any other kind of addiction. People have it with dvd's, like it or not.
Old 10-01-05, 12:25 PM
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These people are also known as "wives."
Old 10-02-05, 01:24 AM
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I started to evaluate some of my spending habits this summer, mostly since I started helping my hoarding mom to go through her stuff. As we went through her tons of papers, collectibles, etc, I started to realize that I also caught the "collecting bug" from my parents. (when you have a hoarding mom and a collector father, you can't help but be influenced). As I helped my mom, I started to go through my stuff and then I realized that I had so much stuff that I barely even use. As a result, I started to get rid of collectible toys, and other things that no longer gave me joy and were taking up too much space. Now, I am thinking that I will simply specialize in one or two collections.. and only buy the things that I truly want. I vow to no longer buy things because of some stupid wishful resell value on ebay, or buy something because its rare. As it stands, my two most valued collections are my DVDs and my video games. Therefore, I have no problems with purchasing items from those 2 categories.

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