Retail therapy makes for good jokes but not good advice. One can easily cross the line between enthusiastic shopper and compulsive shopper
We are forever hearing that retail therapy is the best cure for all sorts of blues, and your bank balance be damned. We also know of those (or maybe we are one, ourselves) who head to the mall, the shops, the boutiques, the moment they feel down/ have too much time and no real idea of how to fill it, or are flush with funds. In other words, the real shopaholic needs no real reason to shop.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a shopaholic as a compulsive shopper. He or she is the individual who seems most harmless, even intelligent and witty, till something sets off the clarion call inside their head. Then their eyes light up, their fingers start to twitch and before you know it, they are gone in less than sixty seconds.
While this, of course, is nothing but good news for the retailers, it is less so for those who have to suffer relationships/friendships with shopaholics. The smarter of the latter lot think up perfectly plausible excuses : a new job needing a new wardrobe, weight change, old toiletries going ‘off,’ finding the perfect dinner set/briefcase/piece of jewellery which of course will vanish if not grabbed immediately. The devil-may-care shoppers talk of being bored of their existing wardrobes and dinner plates, their immediate but intense impulse to gather unto them all that catches their eye.
Shopaholics have been categorised for more years than they knew, and generally fall into three main categories.
There is the obsessive shopper. This lot sees one item and become fixated upon that item. They may not buy it immediately but that doesn’t matter…they live, breathe, dream of it till the need to acquire it builds up to gargantuan proportions. Do they really need the item? In most cases not really, but then they rarely put the subjects of their obsession under scrutiny. They just have to have it. Luxury brand names are important to this lot. They will spend a lot of time and energy if the item is exorbitantly priced ( a Lamborghini or a Lear jet, a great piece of real estate), they will do the referencing scrupulously, they will go on many a scouting mission and follow leads. In just a few days, or in diehard cases, a few hours after they have spotted the item, the obsessive shopper becomes its owner. So, are they content now, happy, even jubilant? Well, most obsessive shoppers are vulnerable to trends that come and go, vulnerable to groupthink. And there you have the answer.
The compulsive shopper, he /she is one who has set certain bars inside his/her head. These are the shopper/collectors.
They follow a routine in their buying patterns, be it the same haute couture designer, or the same It handbag but in as many as six different colours, many Ermenegildo Zegna or Tom Ford suits, a closet full of little black dresses, at least a dozen high-end watches. They shop and shop, mostly in old haunts and mostly going after the same items of top quality. Not for a moment do they consider themselves shopaholics; they think of themselves as loyalists, collectors of classic items.
And then there is the impulsive shopper. These are free spirits who browse and buy on whimsy, online and while out and about. They buy stuff over and over, the need to feel affluent is vital. Also, they buy what they fancy straight away; there is no need to consider or reconsider. If they spot something on someone that catches their fancy, they go up and enquire about it. Of course, it stands to reason that these people’s closets and cabinets, houses and lives, are full of one-off (expensive) items that have neither stood the test of time or taste.
These are all feelgood purchases, so once the feeling wears off, as it inevitably does, the items, small and large, are consigned to some forlorn corner of the house. More stuff is bought and then the old stuff is given away or thrown away.
The same experts who categorise shopaholics also say that compulsive shopping is not a disease if your pockets are deep enough and if you really make the best use of whatever you purchase. You need to seek help only of you are bankrupting yourself, making yourself unhappy obsessing over something out of reach and plotting how to acquire it, or actually doing something illegal to feed that shopping habit. That’s when shopaholism is harming you and that’s when you need to seek help.