Impulsive or compulsive shopping with complex PTSD

Aug 26, 2018

Impulsive or compulsive shopping: have you ever come home from the shops with bags full of stuff, kind of excited with all these new things… but by the time you put them on the table some heavy feelings are settling in… feelings of guilt and SHAME...

Those demons in your head (inner critic) are getting really really loud, because you didn't actually need any of those things...

Maybe you were even trying to save money to buy a car or to go on holiday.

But you just couldn’t leave the shop without this thing. Even knowing that back in the warehouse they may have boxes full of this stuff. Still, you had to have it right now in this moment. 

This urge, this impulse often was just so so strong & overpowering for me that I couldn’t walk out the shop without it.

I am student and I use pens all the time for studying. I did not need to buy a pen for the last five years. So yes, I had a bit of an issue there.

My last five years were the “using up” phase. This is actually a really freeing experience.

So, I’d like to share with you the two drivers behind my impulsive habits.

 

  1. It was a form of distraction

When those intrusive thoughts were coming up or I was ruminating on something from the past… I tried so hard to distract myself from this. And what better way is there to distract yourself than going to a shopping centre? There is music, a lot of things happening and all these new things to look at…

I had lots of professional help to find alternative activities that also distract me from those ruminating thoughts and intrusive memories, but a healthier form of distraction. One that is more meaningful to me and something that can bring joy into my life. One where I don't feel miserable and guilt and shame afterwards, like with shopping.

  1. I tried to fill this emptiness, this hollow feeling inside of me with things

We all want to feel joy and get rid of that hollow empty feeling.

The most effective way to fill that hole is with self-compassion. I know, it doesn’t come natural after all that complex trauma to show some self-compassion.

The more we can allow ourselves to to do so and open up to the idea that you are worthy of kindness and love, the more your relationships and friendships improve. We form stronger & deeper connections with our friends. So, we feel a sense of connectedness and belonging, and only that can fill that hollow empty feeling deep inside us.

This change was key in my healing. I know this is one of the hardest areas to work on for anyone who had complex trauma. At times it feels impossible to let our guard down to form connections, so we can feel that sense of belonging. (I had a lot of professional help)

But that ultimately helped me to reduce the intensity of the impulse and urges to buy stuff. Purchasing all those things was no longer necessary, because I had different ways of distracting myself and filling this deep sense of emptiness.

As always, I'm very curious to what you do yourself to help you with those impulses, urges and compulsive habits. It might not be shopping for you. Whatever it is, I'm always curious to hear your insights, tips and tricks as well 😊 so thank you guys for sharing 😊

In the meantime, sending you lots & lots of love and rainbows to brighten up the tough times just a little…

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