Obsessive Shopping: A Disease?

Following a new study published in this months American Journal of Psychiatry, The American Psychiatric Association is considering whether to add obsessive shopping to the DSM as a classifiable medical disorder. According to the study, more than 10 million Americans may be afflicted, including people like Lucille Schneck:

    CT: “Lucille Schenk bought $20,000 worth of jewelry a year ago, plunging herself into debt and despair. She knew something was wrong but couldn’t help herself.

    When Schenk finally sought help, psychologist April Lane Benson advised her to have a “conversation” with the jewelry before she made a purchase, as a way to put distance between herself and her compulsion.

    “I would say, `You are so beautiful, I can’t live without you; I love the way you sparkle,”‘ recalled Schenk, 62, who lives in Ohio. “The jewelry would say back, `You need me. You look pretty when you wear me.’ I would say, `I do need you. I can’t possibly think of being without you. But something has to change. I need to stop this. I can’t afford a penny more.”‘

Lucille is now seeking treatment for schizophrenia.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Hey I know, why doesn’t the American Psychiatric Association try to get to the root cause of shopping compulsion. I suspect that classifying an obsessive lust for shopping as a disorder is merely scratching the veneer of deeper underlying issues.

    In Lucille’s case, she obviously didn’t have a shopping disorder, but instead an unrealistic desire to have too much jewelry. The key word in her conversation with the jewelry was that she felt that it made her look pretty– if I were a psychologist I would latch onto that and ask her why she felt that she needed the jewelry to boost her self-image.

    But hey! I’m no psychologist. They gotta have something to talk about during their golf trips with eachother.

  2. homerjay says:

    I thought this was already classified under DUMBASS DISORDER.

  3. Yep says:

    Does this mean I can replace my payment check to mastercard with a note from my shrink?

    Its called market creation, and the APA is good at it. “If you name it, they will come.”

  4. In Lucille’s case, she obviously didn’t have a shopping disorder, but instead an unrealistic desire to have too much jewelry. The key word in her conversation with the jewelry was that she felt that it made her look pretty…

    That makes more sense. It’s not like should wouldn’t take the jewelry if it were free.

  5. AcilletaM says:

    How nice of the AMA to try and make Tom Cruise look like he actually knew what he was talking about.

    Or maybe I’m just being glib.

  6. kerry says:

    If Lucille is anything like me or any of the other compulsives out there, it’s not just that she wants jewelry. It’s that she wants to buy *something,* and her mind is affixed to this one type of item. I’ve been though it a dozen or more times, each with a different item. It could be big ticket items, like jewelry, or small, inexpensive things, like pens. It’s an addictive compulsion. You obsess over something until you can have it, when you do you get an immediate rush that subsides quickly, leaving you with an even greater desire for more.
    It’s not laughable, and it’s not fun, and it’s not as simple as “she wishes she were pretty, jewelry will make her pretty.” It’s got elements of addiction and OCD buried in there, along with whatever other neuroses she’s got packed away that buying something temporarily relieves. Plus, shopping provides a nice dopamine kick, much like coccaine and sex.

  7. kerry:

    I don’t think anyone here would disagree that people can be obsessive about shopping in particular, but I think the point I was making in particular illustrated that “shopping addiction” is indicative of further underlying issues that are more root causes.

    It’s got elements of addiction and OCD buried in there, along with whatever other neuroses she’s got packed away that buying something temporarily relieves.

    What you describe there would seem to set the archtype for many people who are addicted to certain activities, whether it be gambling, sex, drugs, or even MMORPG computer game playing. Although there is a clear intent to distinctively set apart each one of those addictions into a subset of diagnoses, it seems fairly clear to me that they all are the same issue essentially: The reward portion of a person’s brain is malfunctioning, ie: what you described with the dopamine rush.

    In Lucille’s example used above, I took what she said at face value. Her “conversation” with her inanimate objects seems to indicate that the reward she feels comes from the mere act of feeling pretty. Perhaps Lucille was a bad example to use, as I’m sure true “shopping addicts” have a much wider swath of frivoloties that they are addicted to.

  8. Kerry..you have a gift with words…I have the exact same feelings, but I agree with S_A, it’s mostly a result of underlying mild OCD.

    However, I have yet to have a dopamine rush anywhere close to that of sex when shopping (maybe I should try some different stores?)…I’ve had adrenaline rushes when closing on my first house and driving my first car off the lot though.

  9. Hotsuma (秀真) says:

    Q: Obsessive Shopping: A Disease?

    A: No, it’s just a dumb b!t(h not knowing her limits. Come on!!!! Come!!! On!!!

  10. kerry says:

    Just to clarify — I wasn’t justifying obsessive shopping getting its own separate disease classification, just countering the comments to the effect that the example given is just a dumb bitch who can’t control her impulses. I think it does go in the class of addictive/compulsive behaviors, because there are so many other things that have the same patterns (like something_amazing listed above).
    Oh, and you wouldn’t believe the rush I got when I bought my first high-end designer handbag after weeks of obsessing over it. I guess it helped that I won it on eBay (yes, I’m sure it’s authentic), but, yeah. I’d say it was somewhere around the level of orgasmic.

  11. SpamFighterLoy says:

    As someone who has struggled with depression and other brain chemistry issues, I can say first-hand that compulsive shopping CAN BE associated with psych issues. I have had to recognize and fight the bug within myself at various levels of medication. If you don’t get that, shut the f*ck up with the snide comments — you are helping no one.

    That said, I would not vote for compulsive shopping as its own diagnosis. It is a symptom of a larger brain chemistry imbalance that already has a diagnosis. It doesn’t need its own page.

  12. dwcusc says:

    Another possible diagnosis, “Me Likey Shiny Things” disorder.