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Can anyone relate to me their experience of using shopping as dysfunctional coping mechanism? Ideas on how to handle more effectively?

Thread starter #1
I am a reader of mostly non-fiction. As my library is only a block away, the new non-fiction books had me reading about many different and diverse factual books. I learned a lot. Interspersed with these books, I kept requesting different PTSD books from the library as well. Now with the quarantine, their PTSD ebook selection is very small.

I am starting out buying older, second hand books online, many of which I read years earlier. This is the only subject I am interested in reading now. It's as if I can't get enough of this subject. I found two excellent helpful books which I am rereading and probably will reread at different time intervals. The others, both read and to read, are piling up on my coffee table and in my one and only bookcase. This habit of reading only PTSD books has me convinced to buy an Ereader device, so I don't accumulate so many books I have no room to keep them.

Years ago, when I was stable but still dysfunctional in other areas of my life, I was reading romance novels. I had filled four bookcases plus three black garbage bags were filled with more of these books. I would read them but what I read was only a small fraction of what I had in my apartment. When I moved, my mom took those garbage bags of books, plus others, and donated them to a large book sale where the proceeds went to the local hospital.

Now, I am afraid I am repeating my history of hoarding books. As I am relatively early on in my trauma therapy, I find myself becoming triggered more and more frequently. This causes my anxiety and anger to get worse and for my entire body to shake visibly. It is still very hard for me to really cry, but I know it would help if I did. As I did before, my coping mechanism was usually spree shopping. Years ago it was books. Now it is once again books, books, books. And with this quarantine, it is so much easier to buy things online, and not necessarily all books.

Now, I do not have much money to spend, but I use every spare cent to buy things, some of which I need, and those that are not necessities, like books. By the end of the month, as I get Social Security (in the US), I often have to count my change just to buy things that my Food Stamps don't cover.

Can anyone relate to me their experience of using shopping, or spree shopping, as a maybe dysfunctional coping mechanism? If so, how do I, or you, approach handling this more effectively therapy? I am becoming worried about the direction I am going, both mentally and environmentally? Is it healthy for me, or anyone, to concentrate on one subject and one that is so prominent in one's life?
 
#2
Could you put yourself on a budget or a limit? For instance, you have X you can spend on whatever for the month and when that runs out make a running shopping list of other things you want to get once the budget refreshes. I would also try to limit the books to maybe 1 a week and do the E-Reading option to avoid the accumulation of clutter. 1 a week will let you have four new books a month, but let’s you have time to get other hobbies going. I love reading as much as the next person but the more I fall in a one track rabbit hole the less I’m taking care of myself overall. Limits suck but they’re a protection for you to make sure you are eating, showering, getting outside, doing something creative, getting some exercise.
 
Thread starter #3
I do agree with you. If I am not spending money on books, there are still so many other items I consider "necessities." I am trying to put a dent on my credit card but when I notice the amount I have to spend after I do pay more on it, I still see things I need. That is when the stimulus check came in and just today I received my Rent Rebate early. I have been paying full rent because I was denied my Section 8 Voucher the last time I applied. The management at the HUD building, my previous residence, has it in for me and had evicted me about four years ago. This same management refused to believe the trauma that occurred there and I am still trying to recover from everything that happened there. The managers and supervisors decided after I stood up for myself to evict me. Money is very tight normally but with some of the extra unexpected income, I am trying to catch up on getting several things I couldn't afford before circumstances changed some. The books, however, are a completely different story. I get your point about buying one book a month. Usually I can read three books in that same time. I do also keep an art journal with mostly collaging. My inspiration for that is dwindling quickly. And, yes, I could and should do more pages. Other than that it is cleaning my apartment. I have a much larger apartment than my previous one and it is difficult for me to clean more than one room at a time. This is one of my least favorite jobs and leaves me sore, extremely tired, and in pain for at least that night and the following day. I admit I am a slouch at keeping my place clean. Again, I must get enough incentive before I decide to do something about that. There is something that I know well about myself and my new therapist is learning about me: I have a problem for every solution. I do want to implement what you suggested but putting that into action is something I find almost impossible, at least at this point in my life and my recovery.

I thank you for your suggestions and ideas. I only hope that it would be easier said than for me to do.
 
#4
You know the whole you have a problem for every solution is completely in your power to change right? It doesn’t have to be a welp this is who I am so deal with it kind of thing. You’re capable of changing whatever you want, as long as you want it bad enough and willing to put in the work. As for the books and shopping- I said a book a week lol that’s four a month so apparently more than enough (so maybe do 1 every two weeks then?) and I get it, but it’s not sustainable and you will run out of this money and be right back at square one if you don’t put in the work to change.
 
#5
I am afraid I am repeating my history of hoarding books.
LOL I've been doing this all my life. I mean, when I moved, I had 25 boxes and they were all books. I think that if you have the money, it's not an issue. I see for you that's part of the problem (well, me too!)...

I use every spare cent to buy things, some of which I need, and those that are not necessities, like books.
Hm...so who says books are not a necessity? For some people, they are critical to...well, life. I understand what you're saying, though. I do the same thing. I don't have the money and I buy stuff I don't need. I don't have any great wisdom for you; I have not addressed this in therapy - even though sometimes I get in real trouble with no money - because finances and money are *very* triggery for me. I can't even bring it up without anxiety.

Can anyone relate to me their experience of using shopping, or spree shopping, as a maybe dysfunctional coping mechanism?
I just realized - today, actually - that one of the reasons I do this is to fill a space inside that I'm having trouble filling in other ways. Like, I'm depressed or anxious or not sure how to handle something, so I buy a book. Or whatever. I've been doing that my whole life and am not sure how to fix it.
 
#6
I am starting out buying older, second hand books online, many of which I read years earlier. This is the only subject I am interested in reading now. It's as if I can't get enough of this subject.
I forgot to say that one of the things you could do, as you mentioned, is buy an e-reader of some sort. Many books you can get for free or at a greatly reduced price electronically. It was important to me to get one where the content was backed up somewhere, in case something happened to your reader. They might all do that, I don't know. But I'd check before buying.

I used to read only about DID or depression or, more recently, PTSD. I think everybody goes through a phase like that. What I discovered, though, was that once I started reading other stuff, my symptoms were reduced some. I think immersing myself served a purpose - it really helps to hear others' experiences so you don't feel so alone and to get some ideas on treatments - but it also made me pay a lot more attention to the symptoms and it made them worse. So maybe you could branch out for just a little, a bit at a time?
 
Thread starter #7
I was thinking about so much reading about PTSD causing more of my depression and maybe subsequently somehow allowing my thoughts and reactions to cause me to suffer from more triggers and flashbacks. I still can't tell if that is the reason for these triggers and flashbacks or if it is related to when I discuss different traumas to my therapist affecting me more after our sessions. I have noticed after I talk to him I often have what I describe as "fallout."
 
#8
My husband manages our money. If he did not, we would be broke. Most any time I get depressed, anxious or bored my go-to is shopping. I'm supposed to tell him before I buy anything (and about 95% of the time, I do) and he tells me before he buys anything. He talks me out of things regularly usually on the basis that we live in a micro studio with 2 cats and have zero room for anything new. I guess I shouldn't have chimed in here - I have no helpful experience that doesn't involve handing the responsibility to someone else. (That's a battle for a different day.)
I know that the Mental Health Association I used to work at had a "bank." Consumers would agree to a budget and they would only be given the money they were budgeted to get when they came in and no more, unless a verifiable situation came up. I was too proud to ask for their services but they really would have helped me.
Good luck. I hope that if you find a lasting help for this you will post it somewhere I can see it. 😂 I've gotten through eating disorders, drinking, drugs, cigarettes and even sex but money kicks my ass every time. The entire time I have been typing I have been considering my next purchases.
 
#9
I often shop when I'm anxious. Usually what I do is I put everything in my Amazon cart and I close the tab. It works for me. If I'm really having trouble not buying stuff, I'll remove my credit cards from Amazon so I have to go looking for my purse and usually that stops me better because it's not an easy like two-click fix, I have to go through multiple steps and I often don't have the energy.
 
#10
I got an accountant. The money they saved me mooooooooore than covered the cost of their fee.

Basically?
My income went into a joint account.
My accountant paid all my bills and then split the rest between different accounts, as we’d discussed. Including my personal spending account. Which was different than my groceries account.
So the only money I had? I could spend however the hell I felt like.
I got a print out each month of exactly where all the money went, in both overview and detail.

My very first accountant was very insistent that if there wasn’t enough money in the account to cover all my bills that we do a payment plan on the bills, in order to insure that I still had personal spending money. I didn’t understand this concept at the time... But I learned to. It’s called “pay yourself first”.

How much was in my personal spending varied wildly over the years. Sometimes it was $50. Sometimes it was 10k. Shrug. Regardless? Everything else was taken care of, so it was mine to do with as I chose.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
#11
This helps me, it's specific to online shopping - I'll go ahead and look around, and have those internal debates (do I really want this? etc.) - and then, put things that I decide I want to buy into the cart.

After doing that? I just leave the website.

For whatever reason, I've learned that doing the process of picking things out is what I find to be helpfully distracting...but the purchasing isn't necessary, in order for me to get that benefit.
 
#12
I am a reader of mostly non-fiction. As my library is only a block away, the new non-fiction books had me reading about many different and diverse factual books. I learned a lot. Interspersed with these books, I kept requesting different PTSD books from the library as well. Now with the quarantine, their PTSD ebook selection is very small.

I am starting out buying older, second hand books online, many of which I read years earlier. This is the only subject I am interested in reading now. It's as if I can't get enough of this subject. I found two excellent helpful books which I am rereading and probably will reread at different time intervals. The others, both read and to read, are piling up on my coffee table and in my one and only bookcase. This habit of reading only PTSD books has me convinced to buy an Ereader device, so I don't accumulate so many books I have no room to keep them.

Years ago, when I was stable but still dysfunctional in other areas of my life, I was reading romance novels. I had filled four bookcases plus three black garbage bags were filled with more of these books. I would read them but what I read was only a small fraction of what I had in my apartment. When I moved, my mom took those garbage bags of books, plus others, and donated them to a large book sale where the proceeds went to the local hospital.

Now, I am afraid I am repeating my history of hoarding books. As I am relatively early on in my trauma therapy, I find myself becoming triggered more and more frequently. This causes my anxiety and anger to get worse and for my entire body to shake visibly. It is still very hard for me to really cry, but I know it would help if I did. As I did before, my coping mechanism was usually spree shopping. Years ago it was books. Now it is once again books, books, books. And with this quarantine, it is so much easier to buy things online, and not necessarily all books.

Now, I do not have much money to spend, but I use every spare cent to buy things, some of which I need, and those that are not necessities, like books. By the end of the month, as I get Social Security (in the US), I often have to count my change just to buy things that my Food Stamps don't cover.

Can anyone relate to me their experience of using shopping, or spree shopping, as a maybe dysfunctional coping mechanism? If so, how do I, or you, approach handling this more effectively therapy? I am becoming worried about the direction I am going, both mentally and environmentally? Is it healthy for me, or anyone, to concentrate on one subject and one that is so prominent in one's life?
Last year, I was using Amazon to make sure I had enough art supplies (one set of water color pencils wasn't enough....I needed four), one eraser wasn't enough......I needed a bunch......and I racked up a credit card bill.....then with this pandemic.....I needed to buy food and necessities in excess..in case I couldn't find them locally and to keep my shopping in public at a minimum..........and when I was good there......I got a new freezer for farm raised meat and filled that up......on my credit card....then came bordom......so I got a few puzzles, a couple games, and new technology.

I paid off the credit cards over six months and had to set an Amazon limit of purchasing only necessities or diversions....like puzzles to keep me distracted, not to exceed 100.00 a month.....when I go to the grocery store, I take a list .....and don't buy extra....and I plan what I eat. If books are keeping you distracted....decide whether they are a necessity or a phase, a diversion, a way to pass extra time, and decide if your book reading is harmful....if you are enjoying it....getting something out of it......great. If the books are stacking up....might want to evaluate purchases as impulsive, driven by safety, driven by needing to understand.....I think the why we buy things.....why we feel compelled to purchase lots of something often, when there is change is driven by safety....
 
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