Written by Karen Jessee. Posted in Organizing.

If you think that a major part of the problem is the internet and television where shopping is available around the clock, some would disagree. Donald Black, a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa who studies impulse-control disorder writes that compulsive shoppers enjoy the sensory experiences of shopping; they like the sounds, the smells, and the feel of different textures. Shoppers are not afforded that sensory stimulation from home.
And finally, if you think this excessiveness is a recent phenomenon, we need only look at Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, the most lied about woman in history and a victim of malicious gossip and bad press. Always worried about her place in society, having lost her husband to murder and three sons to illness, she suffered from anxieties and maladies that would unravel any woman.
Author Catherine Clinton, in her book, Mrs. Lincoln, A Life writes that, “for most of her adult life, [Mary] suffered a disorder that might be characterized as financial bulimia. She felt compelled to hoard and spend in cycles of indulgence and regret. No matter what her real financial situation was, she continued to toss aside reason and judgment and to decorate and bejewel herself and her homes. After she had slaked her thirst for finery, she would become horrified by what she had done, yet the cycle never failed to repeat itself.”
In the 1860s, Mary Todd Lincoln was $25,000 in debt, a formidable figure then; a formidable figure now. It translates into over $700,000 in today’s money. In the 1880s when she returned from exile in France to her sister’s home in Springfield, she brought with her more than 40 trunks that weighed over 8,000 pounds.
We’ve all engaged in the occasional retail therapy; it’s easy, fun and rewarding. We’ve all delighted in a new purchase. But for many, shopping to excess, for whatever reason, is an addiction just like doing drugs, drinking, eating, smoking or gambling and it should be treated as such.
This is the information age; there are numerous sites, videos and articles on line that can begin to help those who need to see themselves in a different light. You can hear the stories of others and what they did to slowly turn their lives around. Do a little research. Gather your patience and your compassion, and instead of taking your friend or family member to the store, take them to the screen and guide them to a new life. It’s the kindest thing you can do.
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