This is a very interesting study showing that a drug used for treating the symptoms of Alzheimers disease, memantine, has been found to reduce impulsive thoughts and spending in 8 compulsive buyers.

Obviously, before it can be approved for the treatment of compulsive shopping, it has to be tested against a placebo in much larger clinical trials.

via Alzheimer’s Drug Curbs Compulsive Buying in Shopaholics – ABC News.

I’m not sure that everybody, who is a compulsive shopper or overspender, needs to be treated with drugs, but certainly those at the more serious end  need help.

In another article discussing the same study, the author discusses the case of Star Thompson,who spends £1000 a week on clothes. This despite the fact that she already has wardrobes full of unworn clothes, including 200 bras and 15 pairs of £250 Ugg boots!!

The author, Dominique Jackson of the Mail Online, states:- “The sooner the Thompsons, and the rest of society, recognise that shopping in this way and on this scale constitutes a serious psychological problem, the sooner the sufferers will get the help they so clearly need.”

Read more:

I couldn’t agree more with Dominique Jackson. What do you think of treating compulsive shopping with medications? Is it a worthy use of health dollars? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Footnote: Memantine is certainly not available on the Pharmaceutical schedule in NZ. I am not sure if it is available for private purchase.

For a few weeks now I have been watching an ANZ bank ad on television, and questioning it.

You know the one with the young woman and the bubbles above her head… which say ” I deserve a little splurge”, “I’ll buy myself an early birthday present” “It won’t be on sale for ever” and “I’ve had a couple of hard weeks”.This is a link to the web version.

This bit I really get. I used to use variations of each and every one of those statements, as justifications for my overspending and putting more “stuff” on my credit cards.  I knew a whole lot more I can tell you. So too do my clients now, those who are overspenders and/or chronic debtors! They know these excuses and variations of them eg. “I should be getting a bonus next month” ” I need this as I haven’t got anything to wear to Jo’s party, Sue’s wedding…” or whatever.

They are all examples of justifications or excuses for spending money when, on some level, we know that we shouldn’t, we know we can’t afford to and/or we know that other people probably wouldn’t be doing it if they were in the same place as us, financially that is.

The bit I don’t get is, that the person using those excuses would be drawn away from their overspending habits, by a savings account with a good interest rate and some other positive benefits.

Maybe some would see the error of their ways and start saving instead of spending, but I know I wouldn’t have  and nor would most of my clients. The reality is, that if you are an overspender or chronic debtor and using those justifications for your spending, in almost all cases you are struggling to pay your bills and debts and there is little money left over to save, if any.

The ANZ ad says ‘Saying no to temptation has never been so satisfying”. They may well be right; saving instead of spending is very satisfying. I just need a lot more convincing that the young woman in the ad, if she is using all those excuses for her spending, will be tempted by the prospect of saving and earning “up to” 4.5% interest. Taken altogether, those excuses spell to me a problem with overspending, which is not insignificant and requires some expert assistance.

I would be interested to hear your comments.

In my post on Monday, I made the statement:- “Compulsive shopping is virtually synonymous with overspending or overshopping; so I use the terms interchangeably here.”

Yesterday, I was talking with another Financial RecoverySM counsellor, Danielle Ray, ( and she challenged this statement. Danielle said that people could overspend, unconsciously; but without the compulsion and need to shop, that characterises compulsive shoppers. She’s right and so I retract that statement!

I think that part of my “confusion” was that, as an overspender myself, whilst most of it was unconscious,( not being aware of how much money I had, nor how much I had spent) occasionally there were elements of compulsion as well. When I decided that I needed (or was that wanted? – watch for a future blog on this!)something, I could be compulsive in my pursuit of it. I would drive all over town if needbe, that very day, to purchase it. The “having to have it, and have it now” syndrome!

This has, of course, now been made so much easier for us all and, dare I say, more dangerous, with the advent of online shopping. We no longer need to put any pause between the thought and action, in this case shopping, before the transaction is complete. For this reason, I also advise my clients to use a debit card and not a credit card at all times. (I do this myself although have a CC which I use for business, but very seldom.) This means that they can still send flowers on Mother’s Day and still order tickets on the internet for concerts and movies, but all the money comes immediately out of their current account. Therefore, the shopping has to be all that more conscious, or if it isn’t, the consequences are much more immediate!

So, thank you Danielle, for making me think more clearly about this.

Shop 'til you drop!I have been promising a blog on compulsive shopping so, here goes. Compulsive shopping is virtually synonymous with overspending or overshopping; so I use the terms interchangeably here.

We’ve all laughed when someone says they’ve done some retail therapy or, they’ve shopped ’til they dropped! Let’s face it most of us have done it at one time or another, and no harm was done. However, for others, and for many years I was amongst them, it isn’t a laughing matter and harm is, or was done.

In her book, “To Buy or Not to Buy – Why we Overshop and How to Stop” April Lane Benson, a New York psychologist, specialising in the treatment of compulsive buying, says “……when we overshop, though we often don’t realize it, we are trying to fill emotional needs with material goods.” She goes on to say that:- “The conclusion is now inescapable: far from trivial, overshopping is an important source of emotional, social, occupational, financial and spiritual misery for a great many individuals and families.”

Mine was mostly financial although the sleepless nights, worrying how I was going to be able to pay my bills, took their physical toll at times.

So, the next time you laugh about someone’s retail therapy, just check in with yourself about whether this might, in actual fact, be something more. There is help available.