Wife’s shopping disorder

By Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Q: For some years now, my wife has developed a shopping routine which is beginning to drive me crazy. Basically, her whole routine is based on buying items that are reduced in price – whether general groceries, household items or clothes. She now even schedules her trip to the stores to coincide with the time items are marked down. She shops virtually every day and will spend a considerable time waiting for the mark downs if necessary. This is not done for economic necessity – we are comfortably off. If she sees an item which has a reduced sticker on it she finds it almost impossible to resist, whether we need it or not. In addition, she will buy as much as she can of the reduced item – a recent example would be 5 cabbages for just the two of us. There are many more examples. This may sound amusing but I can assure you it’s not. The result is that we end up with food that we cannot possibly eat and a small fortune is wasted on exotic food items, whereas normal food essentials go by the by. The same applies to clothes – she has literally heaps of clothes that have never been worn because they are unsuitable, but all have one thing in common – they all have been reduced in price. We have plastic bags all over the house containing things like saucepans totally superfluous to our needs. As I said, it may sound amusing but it is really getting me down. The result is that we don’t have one room in the house that doesn’t resemble a store room, including the entrance hall. This has consequences – it’s embarrassing to have guests in the house and it’s impossible to employ help – they would not know where to begin. What makes this situation worse is that my wife is a very intelligent woman and works as a lawyer. I thought her behavior might have been a form of OCD but, after reading about that condition, this does not seem to be the case. My wife knows that I find this situation unacceptable and I have tried to reason with her on many occasions but to no avail.

A: This situation sounds similar to an addiction and possibly a compulsion which is usually related to anxiety. It probably has something to do with something missing in your wife’s life and she is trying to fill the void. Many times people who compulsively overeat are trying to fill an emptiness inside and I have seen cases where shopping is done in the same way. The exception is when the excessive shopping is part of Bipolar Disorder but in this case it would generally only happened sporadically as part of a manic phase. What you are describing is sounds more like some sort of anxiety disorder or a self-esteem/depression issue. Regardless of what is causing the problem, I would suggest that you strongly encourage your wife to enter therapy. It would most likely be best to attend some sessions together to make sure the therapist gets the whole picture, and then your wife might benefit from some individual therapy. If this goes unaddressed in a professional manner I would be concerned that it will fester until it causes a severe marital problem. It sounds like you have done what you could on your own but it is now time to enlist the help of some professionals. Good luck.

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Jan 2007

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2007). Wife’s shopping disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/01/17/wifes-shopping-disorder/