Now that we are in the midst of the holidays and all of the sales that come with them, let’s talk about a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder that is not often addressed but is just as damaging as some of its other impulsive actions: binge shopping. I personally struggle with shopping when my emotions are high (which, let’s be honest, with BPD my emotions are generally high ALL OF THE TIME) and my shopping gets particularly bad when the holidays roll around and sales begin to pop up. My resistance is not very high, and I have gotten into serious trouble with money in the past due to my spending habits. My excessive spending is not a symptom I like to talk about very often due to the stigma that surrounds money and credit card use, but it is something that I think is important to talk about around this time of year as we are struggling with various impulsive behaviors, such as eating, substance abuse, and of course, spending. To help with this, I want to give you three alternatives you can try out if you suffer from a shopping addiction and begin to feel the urge to shop during this time of year. My hopes are that they help you out and make managing this symptom that much easier on your own.
1) Create a crisis kit with some of your favorite things
Creating a crisis kit is something that I love doing for other behaviors that I struggle with (such as self-harm) or when I am entering a mental health crisis, but creating a crisis kit for when you feel the urge to binge shop is an excellent way to practice gratitude. I know that when I shop, I am looking for things to comfort me that make me feel better in the moment, and sometimes it works, but for only a very short time. This is why I put some of my favorite things in a crisis kit to pull out when I am experiencing shopping urges to satisfy that need to be comforted by things that mean something to me. Try and put together a kit of things that comfort you and only pull it out when you feel the urge to shop. See how the items make you feel when you are at your most vulnerable, and just take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed while holding the items.
2) Go to the library and check out books, movies, etc.
One of the things I love shopping for are books, which makes the library a prime place for me to go when I am experiencing shopping urges. Being able to take out as many books, movies, etc. that I would like helps with the urge to binge shop and it helps to relieve the need to go out and buy something. However, if your local library has a gift shop or they sell used books, be sure to avoid shopping in those venues while you are vulnerable.
3) Watch a favorite movie, read a favorite book, listen to music, etc.
This tip goes back to being in that high emotional state and needing something to help soothe me down. I find that I connect deeply to different movies and TV shows and the characters end up becoming my “friends” that I rely on when I am feeling emotionally unstable. Watching a favorite movie or TV show helps to distract me from my shopping urges and I hope that doing that, or reading a book, or listening to music, will help to distract you in a safe way as well.
Impulsivity when it comes to shopping can be a life shattering symptom of borderline personality disorder that is not often discussed, and I think that it is time that we bring it out into the open. If you are struggling with a shopping addiction and feel that you need further help, please be sure to check out SAMHSA for treatment and referral options. Their help line is open 24/7. Just call 1–800–662-HELP (4357) for support.
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