I Have An Online Shopping Addiction

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Muriel de Seze / Getty

I suppose I should start this out properly. My name is Elizabeth, and I have an online shopping addiction. They say admitting it is the first step. And I am now admitting it: I have a problem.

I spend hours on eBay, Amazon, and AliExpress every day. Instead of reading the news, I hear it second-hand from my husband. I don’t read op-eds or surf major websites or even scan fan theories from my latest TV shows. I have ignored my son while I nurse him so I can search sites for the perfect t-shirt to buy him.

Spending time on online shopping, instead of doing things you love, is a hallmark of addiction.

It’s not that I’m always buying things. But I’m always looking and flagging and carting stuff. I’m always wish-listing things to buy another day. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the coveting that’s an issue, the imagining, the sense that life will be better when my son is dressed in that $3.85 lemon t-shirt than it will be when he’s in the clothes he owns now. It’s the sense of absolute need, the rush that comes with picking just the right rainbow shirt.

Online shopping helps me relax, and helps me feel better when I’m stressed or depressed or angry. Which is yet another sign of a shopping addiction.

And while much of the time I’m looking, I do buy stuff, of course. I buy stuff for my kids. I buy fancy clothes for them and the accouterments to go with them. This is objectively ridiculous, because they only wear these outfits on Sunday, though I try to find excuses for them to wear the clothes at other times too. They already have more than they can wear, and several unworn outfits sit in each of their closets. This is not utilitarian shit, y’all, and I have run out of hangers multiple times. But it doesn’t matter that the stuff isn’t useful. I buy it anyway. Because guess what? Buying shit you don’t need, over and over, is another sign of compulsive shopping.

I get a huge rush when I find the perfect jacket or bow tie or suspenders. I buy them. I am super-excited about whatever it is and seeing my kids in it and just actually having and collecting it. Then the corresponding rush of guilt slams me. I shouldn’t have done that. I know I shouldn’t have done that. This twinned rush of euphoria and guilt? Typical of shopping addiction.

Then I have to deal with the packages. You see, I almost never ever ever buy anything for me or anything useful. When I do, I confess to my husband. He objects to the extraneous stuff though – to the sheer amount of extraneous stuff. So I stalk the mailman. When my husband is at work, this is easy. I can intercept, unwrap, and put away before he has any idea stuff arrived. But when he’s home, I have to be sneakier. I always unwrap them in another room. If it’s something bigger, I have a chance to hide it before he sees.

This is not normal. This is not healthy. This is not a way to conduct a marriage.

Lying to others about your purchases is another sign of online shopping addiction. It causes more obvious problems when he sees what’s in the packages, or realizes how many there are. Because he gets mad. He tells me we don’t need this stuff. He tells me I can’t keep buying them. And I want to cry, because I feel terrible, but I’m angry, because it’s my money too and on the grand scale I’m not spending an arm and a leg here — but any time we discuss money, if we want to save for something, he says that I have to stop buying kids’ clothes. And I feel mad and ashamed and mad and ashamed all over again.

If your spending habits make problems in your personal life, that’s a sign of shopping addiction. And if you argue about your online shopping with your partner, that’s yet another sign.

And the worst part? I feel like I can’t stop. Oh, I could stop buying things. But I don’t think I could stop carting things. And even if I changed all my passwords and couldn’t log in to any of the sites I go to (which some people recommend doing in order to help with a shopping addiction), I would still cruise the local thrift stores.

This is scary. This is frightening. And this has to change.

I don’t know what I’ll do, but I know things have to change. I’ll try to limit the amount of time I spend on different sites. I’ll try to be totally transparent with my husband about what I buy. I’ll try to remind myself that my kids don’t need more stuff. And when I’m upset, I’ll try to do something other than cruise shopping sites. Like, perhaps, read a book for once.

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