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Can someone be an emotional shopper?

By June 10, 2009 - 11:58am
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Is there really such a thing as an emotional shopper? Is this different that compulsive?

My friend spent too much money the other day and has been upset. I am wondering if I should be concerned for her.

Thanks for your help.

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Hi, Loca. Good question!

Sure, there can be emotional shopping just like there can be emotional eating, or drinking, or drug use. Anytime we are using one behavior to help us "fix" or avoid our feelings, that could be called emotional behavior.

Emotional eating is probably the term used most often. We have all had a down or lonely night when we find company in the container of ice cream. And we've heard Oprah, for instance, talk about her emotional eating habits, using food to console or comfort herself rather than deal with the situation. And it doesn't have to be a down situation for it to be emotional -- sometimes we eat as a reward, or when we're celebrating a special occasion with family.

Shopping works for all those reasons too, for some people. They seek the fun of the hunt and the happiness of the purchase, which helps -them -- at least for the moment -- repress whatever else is going on. "Compulsive" shopping is different -- it's more about needing to shop simply as an addiction, simply for the rush. Emotional shopping would be exactly as you describe -- if we are sad, or angry, or upset, or happy, and we go shopping to help us feel better, or help us celebrate (even if we don't have the money or don't need what we buy).

I guess what I'd ask about your friend is whether this is a common event or a one-time occurrence? Do you think she needs counseling about whatever's upsetting her in her life? Is she in financial trouble and continuing to shop? Or does it just feel like it was a temporary outburst of shopping meant to make her feel better on a one-time basis?

June 11, 2009 - 10:11am
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