You Are What You Buy: But You Don’t Have To Be

By Ashley Posimato

Wow! That crew-neck, long sleeve from The Gap looked so good on you, buying it in every color was definitely the move to make.  And then, only twelve shirts later, you practically had your foot out the door, ready to vacate the mall, with what you would consider merely minimal damage. Oh right that was only until Bloomingdale’s was having a BOGO sale on Giuseppe Zanotti pumps.  So what’s two more pairs of shoes? Then again you would be adding them to a closet that is already teeming with designer footwear.  But two for one Zanotti’s?  Even your cheap, I mean frugal, mother wouldn’t pass that deal up.

Do these thoughts dictate your decisions?  Do visions of Oscar de la Renta’s pre-fall fashion show (released online this week!) inundate your dreams?  Would you neglect previously verified obligations at the announcement of a sample sale?  If you answer yes, even if only internally, to one or more of these, you may in fact be a shopaholic.

But I assure you, you are not alone!

According to MSN.com, recent studies suggest that over 17 million Americans are unable to restrict their money from burning a hole in their pocket- hey a hole in a pocket is an excuse for new jeans!  But although this behavior is commonly made humorous, for some people, compulsive shopping is far from a punch line to a joke.

Allison Friedman, a psychologist at the Marist Counseling Center, believes that there are people out there who are real shopaholics, despite the light connotation that surrounds it.

“Shopping is a real illness,” Friedman said.  “We joke about it, but there are  people who are really caught up in it- and for them it’s very serious.”

The seriousness of the disease however, can only be appreciated if understood.  It is important therefore to not only identify the behavior, but define what is dangerous, from what is entertaining.

“Compulsive shopping comes from the distorted belief that this activity has the power to make things better in your life,” Friedman said.  “That these things will substitute for whatever it is that you are missing.”

Friedman also clarified that there are occasions in life that motivate shopping: weddings, baby announcements, etc.  These moments are ever-present, albeit manifested in different forms. While a thirty-something year old may be more inclined to shop for their best friends upcoming shower, someone in their early twenties will have very different incentives.

Julia Janicelli, a junior at Marist, says that her shopping patterns depend on her plans for the weekend as well as her mood.

“This past weekend I was really sick, so I went shopping as a gift to myself,”  Janicelli said.

Being restricted to her house is not the only condition that justifies her shopping. From the looks of those who frequent the local night-life spots, she is not alone.

“If something good is going on that weekend I’ll want something new,” said Janicelli.  “I get sick of my clothes, but always end up buying something that isn’t worth it.”

Most people can identify with this feeling of dis-satisfaction, however when the purchases add up, and authority no longer accompanies behavior, compulsive buying becomes very dangerous.

“Although this is an addiction that is very easily tagged onto women, it is equally serious for suffering men,” Friedman said.

The difference is apparent in the type of things shopaholics are likely to buy.  Women will more likely splurge on clothes, cosmetics, and accessories, while it is more probable for men to stock up on electronics.

“I would never buy more than one pair of shoes for the year,” said Nic Zivic, a student-athlete at Marist College.  “But when it comes to video games I can’t get enough.”

Zivic admits that although he lives in one house with seven other boys, thus has immediate access to all of their games, unless it is his personal possession, he’s not satisfied.

“I like to know that I bought it,” Zivic said.  “The more games I have the better I feel, it like represents power.”

It is specifically the attribution of power to items that qualifies the behavior as compulsive.  The good news is that there are affective ways to change, and many people have proved them through their recovery.

“First the activity needs to be confronted,” Friedman said.  “Then a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, and financial counseling will help the shopper change their habits.

“Ultimately a shopaholic needs to change the way they think about reality. They need to be able to say ‘I’m here, I’m valid, I exist.'”

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