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Section 1
Compulsive Buying

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On this track, we will discuss three factors that exacerbate a compulsive spender’s habits.  These factors include:  denial; social pressures; and contradicting personalities.

3 Factors that Exacerbate a Compulsive Spender’s Habits

#1 - Denial
The first factor we will discuss is denial.  When confronted about their behavior, many clients will deny their behavior, but because they are in this state of denial, they become less confident in themselves.  To compensate, they compulsively spend greater sums of money.  Jason, age 27, stated, "Yeah, I spend a little more than the average person, but I don’t have a problem!  That’s ridiculous."  Megan, his wife, stated, "When I confronted him about all the purchases on our credit card bill, he denied the whole thing, even though I had the receipts in my hand.  After we had an argument, he went out and bought more stuff!  He’s so frustrating!" 

I stated to Jason, "When you spend money, you’re in fact trying to validate your own sense of worth.  By buying things that have tangible value, you feel that they reflect back onto you.  Does that sound right?  How do you feel after you’ve finished a large shopping spree?"  Jason stated, "I feel good, I feel important.  But that doesn’t mean I’m dependent!  I can control myself!" 

Think of your Jason. 
Have you heard phrases like this before?  What would you say to this type of client?

Technique: Compulsive Spending Quiz
To help Jason come to terms with his compulsive spending, I asked him to complete the "Compulsive Spending Quiz."  I gave Jason a list of questions which I asked him to answer with "often," "sometimes," "rarely," or "never."  I also asked Megan, Jason’s wife, to complete the quiz so that Jason would have a point of reference.  The quiz included, but was not excluded to, the following questions:

3 Compulsive Spending Questions

  1. Do you buy things you want, whether or not you can afford them a the moment?
  2. Do you have trouble saving money?  If you have a little extra available to put in the bank, do you tend to think of something you’d rather spend it on?
  3. Do you buy things to cheer yourself up or to reward yourself?

After completing the quiz, Jason had answered "often" or "sometimes" to all of the questions.  On the other hand, Megan answered "never" to all of the questions.  Clearly, this couple had very different views on financial issues.  I asked Jason, "Do you think it is fair that Carol is the one who scrimps and sacrifices while you get to buy all these extravagant things?"  Jason stated, "No, I guess it’s not fair.  Since we do have combined accounts, I should maybe back down a bit."  Think of your Jason and Carol.  Would they benefit from comparing their "Compulsive Spending Quiz" answers?

#2 - Contradicting Spending Personalities
A second factor is contradicting spending personalities If a client with a mild compulsive spending habit enters a relationship with a person who displays an opposite mild spending habit, these two different spending personalities will augment each other.  Megan had the spending personality of a hoarder, or someone who prefers to save money in order to preserve a more stable state of mind. 

I stated to Megan, "Many couples tend to become polarized in their attitudes toward money.  Even if you weren’t opposites when you met, eventually, you will most likely modify your habits to counterbalance each other’s behavior.  This reaction may be mild or extreme, depending on how convinced you are that your husband’s actions will endanger the financial balance of your relationship.  Thus, you, a mild hoarder, have become a more extreme hoarder after you met Jason." 

Think of your Megan.  Has he or she become a more extreme hoarder or spender after meeting with his or her partner?  How would you explain this phenomenon to your client?

#3 - Social Pressure
In addition to denial and contradicting spending personalities, the third factor is social pressure.  Although social pressure is a factor that many would attribute to the younger generation, I have found that it can apply to all ages.  Kelly, age 45, had a fetish for shoes.  Kelly stated, "I just can’t seem to stop myself.  When I see a pair of shoes I want, I have to have them! I have over 230 pairs of shoes.  My entire closet is devoted to them!  Most of them haven’t even been worn.  But I know that when my friends come over, they are jealous and it makes me feel better about myself." 

Kelly had incorporated the social standing that her shoes had brought her into her self-esteem.  Instead of using them for their practical purpose, Kelly began using them as a social status.  I explained to Kelly, "There are lots of different messages today that try and convince you to fill your life with things.  Today, we’re bombarded from infancy with images of all the wonderful things we can buy to transform our lives into bliss and perfection.  However, all it really brings us is debt and unhappiness."  Think of your Kelly.  Is he or she buying items because they feel it will bring them happiness?

On this track, we discussed three factors that exacerbate a compulsive spender’s habits.  These factors included:  denial; social pressures; and contradicting personalities.

On the next track, we will examine the various motivations that shop-aholics have for compulsive spending.  These motivations include:  substituting for love and affection; gender-related motivations; and thrill seeking.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Fradkin, I., Adams, R. A., Parr, T., Roiser, J. P., & Huppert, J. D. (2020). Searching for an anchor in an unpredictable world: A computational model of obsessive compulsive disorder. Psychological Review. Advance online publication.

Nicolai, J., & Moshagen, M. (2017). Dissociating pathological buying from obsessive-compulsive symptoms using delay discounting. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 225(3), 244–251.

Rose, P. (2007). Mediators of the association between narcissism and compulsive buying: The roles of materialism and impulse control. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21(4), 576–581.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are three factors that exacerbate a compulsive spender’s habits? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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