A woman struggling with a compulsive buying disorder has revealed her out-of-control social media shopping habit led her spend $98,000 on random purchases over the course of just six months.
Carla Sosenko, a 41-year-old writer based in Brooklyn, opened up about how she used shopping as a coping mechanism for her anxiety and depression, admitting that she actually had to dip into here retirement fund to pay down her credit card bills.
"Since the beginning of this year, I have spent $98,000 on shoes, clothes, furniture, and other stuff I can barely remember now," she wrote in an essay entitled "My Social-Media Shopping Habit Cost Me $98,000 in 6 Months", which was published by Cosmopolitan.com.
While trying to explain what it's like be a compulsive shopper, Carla recounted how she saw a woman with a Balenciaga tote and quickly tried to find it herself on Google.
The writer said she tried to forget about the $1,100 bag, but she couldn't resist trying to find it on sale, recalling: "There I was, a few hours later, on my couch with a glass of white wine prowling for the tote the way some people look for cat videos.
"I went from site to site unsuccessfully trying to find a sale. I decided to move on."
Although Carla didn't end up buying that particular tote however, the additional Google searching led her to a white bag with a similar price tag.
She convinced herself it was a practical purchase because it would hold her laptop, and she put it in her online shopping cart.
"This is when the shift began and a sort of manic state set in—when I'm about to buy something, I can't focus on anything else," she explained.
"My mind starts rushing. Should I buy this bag? Should I go back to the other bag? Should I buy neither?"
Carla noted that services such as ApplePay and Paypal make buying easier than ever, and she confessed that she felt a mix of calm and worry when she quickly hit the ApplePay bottom to buy the pricey designer product.
And it's not just the ease of payments that is fueling her compulsive shopping habits.
The writer says that much of the motivation behind her purchases from from her social media feed, which is always filled with influencers and ads touting new things for her to buy.
But Carla's love of buying things online doesn't necessarily come from her desire to actually own and use hundreds of different designer items. In fact, she admitted that she didn't even care about the expensive white tote when it arrived because it was the act of buying that gave her the thrill.
"For those of us living with a compulsion to shop, it's not about the buy, it's about the buying," she wrote.
Though she has always been a "shopper," the writer said it was never a problem that affected her personal relationships or career - and she notes that she always thought shopping was a "harmless" hobby.
She credited her "good jobs and exceedingly generous parents" for always being able to pay off her credit card bills over the years, but that changed in 2018.
Carla says that the anxiety of switching jobs in January 2017 sparked an increase in her online shopping. At the start of this year she was feeling "particularly low" and found herself in a spending spiral; not only was she buying more, she was choosing more expensive items.
And even though she would lie in bed at night worried about her spending and how she was going to pay down her debt, she couldn't stop buying.
Carla's credit card bill eventually got so high she wasn't able to cover it with her normal income.
However, she revealed that she has an investment account for her retirement that she can access without penalty, and so she started withdrawing from that to foot the bill for her excessive spending.
As her retirement fund dwindled, she imagined herself spending her golden years struggling to survive financially because of all the stuff she blew her money on.
Even the act of having to email her money manager to access the funds didn't deter her from spending - although she confessed that her notes became increasingly guilty-sounding the longer her spending went on.
"Each email to my money manager was increasingly apologetic, as if I were seeking complicity in something criminal," she admitted. "'Hi!' I'd write cheerily. 'I spent more money on vacation than I thought. Oops! :) Hopefully this is the last time I email you!'"
Even when she sunk so far into debt that she wasn't sure if she would recover, she still continued - although her desperation to get out of her financial troubles led her down a disturbing path.
"I've never been suicidal, but I sometimes found it comforting to think, Maybe I'll get hit by a bus and won't have to worry about it," she admitted.
This summer Carla hit her breaking point and "quit shopping cold turkey." To ease her temptation to buy, she removed her shopping apps from her phone and unsubscribed from store emails.
She started seeing a therapist to discuss her problems with spending, and she no longer allows herself to dip into her retirement savings.
Although she slipped up and went on a shopping spree after a confrontation with her friend, she said she returned "almost everything."
Carla said she still has a $9,000 balance on her credit card, but she is determined to pay it down until she is out of debt.
She even insists on carrying around that white tote she bought, which ended up being more burdensome than practical, as a reminder to keep her shopping compulsion in check.
WHAT IS COMPULSIVE BUYING DISORDER?
First named in the early 20th century, it's an illness in which sufferers spend far beyond their means, to the point of serious financial or social difficulties.
Also known as "compulsive spending disorder" or oniomania, it has been linked to other impulse disorders such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and gambling.
Sufferers may feel compelled to splash out on things they do not need, want or use because they enjoy the recognition or importance that being a big shopper brings, or to bolster low self-esteem.
One school of thought says that the purchases close the gap between how sufferers see themselves and how they want to be seen, or their "ideal self".
That's why luxury shoes, body-care goods, and expensive electrical items frequently crop up in their buying lists.
It is augmented by a materialist attitude that says a person's self-worth comes only from what they have.
Sufferers tell themselves that the more they have—and the more expensive it is—the "better" they must be.
Compulsive shoppers are particularly motivated by a desire to change their moods—for which shopping becomes an easy fix.
But the high is fleeting, and soon shoppers find themselves spending compulsively to maintain their good mood.
Source: Psychology Today