Take it easy on the cards

2010-05-22 14:04

Every month new fashion comes off the catwalk and trend-hoppers

follow the trail to the stores religiously. It’s not just about the clothes from

Paris, Milan or New York. The ­latest techno gadgets, cars and homes ­also

attract trend groupies.

Clinical psychologist Dr Lee Hartman says uncontrollable shopping

falls under the broad spectrum of impulsive control disorders (ICD). “This

problem doesn’t have a specific diagnosis as it falls under the residual

category of the ICD spectrum,” explains Hartman.

It is often a by-product of disorders such as anxiety, depression

and social phobia.

“In South Africa the subject is still taboo. There is more

acceptance of someone being a gambling addict compared to a shopaholic.”

Hartman says sufferers experience increased stress before going on

a spree. “They then go shopping for relief and acquire temporary pleasure from

spending. Guilt and remorse quickly take over and they regret having bought

unnecessary items.”

Dr Kevin Bolon, a clinical psychologist, says there are no clear

predisposing factors and ­anyone may suffer from it. “There is a difference

between people who enjoy buying things and stick within their budget and someone

who has shopping splurges,” he says.­

Bolon says: “If you are regularly exceeding your budget and causing

tensions in your relationship over shopping, then it is definitely a


Hartman says there have been instances where people have gone from

being well-off to being in full-blown debt.

Zak King, a debt counsellor and editor of Debtfree magazine, says

bad spending habits and poor self-control push people into financial turmoil.

“Access to credit allows people to spend money that they don’t have.” He says

people budget for their homes and cars, but store cards and credit cards are the

real hazard. “It’s these smaller credit facilities that catch consumers off


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