Friday, 14 June 2013

Anxiety, Compulsive Shopping and Beauty Blogging

I wasn't sure how best to go about writing this blog post but I figured I'd just dive straight in and be honest. Anyone who knows me knows I love shopping; in particular, shopping for beauty products. I'll find something I want in pretty much any shop I visit, whether it's a supermarket, high street store, department store or anywhere else. I don't mind if it's own brand, cheap, expensive, foreign, new or old, chances are once I've locked eyes on it, whatever 'it' is,  I'll want to own it. I'll feel like I need to own it. Lots of people say the same sort of thing; 'I just bought a few 'essentials'!' or 'I had a cheeky splurge!' It's normal to enjoy a bit of shopping and a bit of pampering, and it's so much fun to write about your purchases. I'm not so sure that my spending habits still classify as normal, though, and I think it might be tied to the anxiety and panic attacks I've been experiencing for a while now. 

I can't seem to control myself when I'm out and about with my debit card. The little voice of sensible spending is silenced by the bigger voice of 'YOU NEED THIS! YOU MUST BUY THIS!'  I seem to have no impulse control. I'm not in mountains of debt and I always pay off my bills every month, but spending the rest of my income (or not, at the moment...) means I'm useless when it comes to saving for things. I'm awful at planning because I just can't seem to stop myself whittling away all my money until I'm right on the edge, at which point I'll stop because I know I've got nothing left to obsess over. This cycle of incessant spending and purchasing new 'things' has me in an anxiety grip; I almost feel relieved when I'm penniless because I don't have to 'worry' about wasting any more money. Which is ridiculous, I know. Not to mention illogical. 

For ages I've tried to justify my spending habits. Where's the harm in trying out new products? Everyone else has nice things and enjoys shopping so surely I can too? Just one more splurge won't hurt, will it? Only it's never just one more, and it's a constant stream of spending and wasting money that could go towards far more fulfilling experiences. I know all of this, of course. I understand all of this. But I can't seem to apply it, and so I'm trying to get to the root of it and understand it because it's having only negative effects on my life now. Having to make my fiance take my debit card out of the house with him every day when he goes to work, to prevent me from going shopping, is not OK. It's embarrassing. I know this isn't normal behaviour, and I'm ready to admit that I've got a problem. 

What is compulsive shopping? Wikipedia notes that Compulsive Buying Disorder (or 'Oniomania') is characterised by 'an obsession with shopping that causes adverse consequences'. It doesn't have to always involve parting with cash; it can be that you have obsessive thoughts about shopping that you don't necessarily act upon.  I do spend a lot of time thinking about money, and about spending, when I'm not actually shopping. Apparently CBD is far more common among women than men, and as it tends to involve 'appearance-related items' it could be linked to attempts at forming an 'identity'. I experienced a bit of a light-bulb moment upon first reading this. I've suffered from low self-esteem and anxiety since I was a teenager and I always felt that I didn't quite have a strong identity or personality when I was at school. Who am I and what do I want? This is something that I suppose I might have carried over into adulthood. Often when I'm meeting new people I seem to reflect their personality when talking to them; if they're outgoing and bubbly, I'm outgoing and bubbly. If they're shy and reclusive, I'm shy and reclusive. If they're moody and sharp, well, I just sort of shrivel up awkwardly... A bit of social anxiety for you there! How do we know who we are if we feel as if we're always the 'reactor' and never the 'actor'? Perhaps obsessively focusing on material things is a way of trying to create a secure identity free from anxiety, a way of latching onto outside things instead of turning attention inwards. Because I already have an identity. I just maybe don't like it all that much at times. 

Perhaps it's true that I buy things compulsively in an attempt to create an identity, instead of actually taking the time to accept myself for who I am and cultivate my talents, wishes and strengths, which form my true identity. I know I have an identity and personality; perhaps I just haven't been willing to accept myself. I know logically that a lipstick or shirt or book isn't going to transform me into the world's most confident, anxiety-free person, but when I've got money to hand I just spend it. All of it. I don't judge others on what they own or how they look, and I'd say that's a really strong value of mine. Yet for some reason I must believe deep down that other people are judging me. I guess I must be judging myself constantly without even realising it. 

Apparently there are two main ways of treating compulsive buying, and they go hand in hand with treating anxiety. The first is through a course of anti-depressants, and Wikipedia mentions Citalopram which is the medicine I'm taking at the moment for anxiety. Apparently It raises your serotonin levels, thereby helping to stabilise your mood. I've been on this for almost three weeks, so it's early days, and to be honest I haven't noticed a difference in my mood or anxiety at all so far. I know it can take a while to kick in, so I'm going to persevere. The other treatment option is a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which I'm on a waiting list for. CBT gives you the tools needed to work on altering unhelpful thought patterns. My anxiety does seem to be entwined with my spending habits. If I'm feeling scared or on edge, I'll shop to focus my mind on something tangible. If I'm feeling happy and stress-free, almost hyper, I'll shop to compliment my 'can-do' attitude. If I'm feeling bored, restless or frustrated, full of tension, I'll shop to pass the time and to have things to 'play with' when I get home. I've been this way since childhood and it's got to a point now where I know I need to take steps to deal with it if I want to do the things I want to do, such as own a home, buy a car, travel the world and raise a family. 

I'm sure you might be thinking 'well why don't you just stop?' I agree! Why don't I just stop? I'm sitting here with a Superdrug bag in front of me, full of lovely things that I know deep down I don't really need. It makes me feel a strange mixture of emotions; sort of excited but sick to my stomach at the same time. It's like a warped buzz. I have more than enough things to beauty blog about, and I absolutely love reading posts by other bloggers featuring all sorts of products, including those that aren't new releases. In fact, I think I prefer reading posts about products that aren't new as it's great to hear opinions on old favourites and classics. It brings variety to the beauty blogging world, which can only be a good thing. I also know I put pressure on myself at times to 'keep up with the Jones's' and buy the latest releases in order to have recent bits and bobs on my blog. I write for myself mainly but of course it's nice to think someone else might have a read, and sometimes I can't help but fall into the trap of thinking that only the newest products attract readers, which is silly. 

With this in mind, I'm going to try my very best to only write reviews on products I already own, from now on. I've got bags full of stuff to review and instead of disregarding things I've had for months or weeks, rushing out to get something 'fresh' and new, I'm going to dig deep in my collection and review lots of things I've already bought. Maybe no-one else will have a read, but at least I'll be writing (my favourite thing to do!) and at least I'll be spending time developing a hobby rather than wasting money I really shouldn't be spending. I'm job hunting at the moment so now is not the ideal time to be milking my overdraft. I'm sure I'll have huge pangs of jealousy when I see photos and blog posts featuring lovely new 'must have' releases but I know I can't keep spending so recklessly and I need to get a grip on this anxiety/spending cycle. 

I love writing about beauty products and I don't think there is anything wrong with doing so, or with spending money on products if it's within my means. While I do need to work on my self-esteem I don't believe that beauty products are tools I'm hiding behind, as some people argue about make-up. It feels nice to pamper yourself and I think it's a type of self-care in many ways. Setting a bubble bath, applying a luxurious body cream, exfoliating with a gentle face scrub, painting your nails, highlighting your cheeks with blusher. I actually think it's good to spend time pampering yourself in this way, because you're showing yourself you deserve to be focused on for a little while each day. My problem isn't with beauty products as such, as I've also been known to compulsively splurge on books, magazines and clothes. The problem doesn't lie with what I'm buying; it lies more with the constant need to buy and own things for the temporary high it gives and the false sense of security and permanence it provides when everything feels shrouded in anxiety. 

I'm going to bring all of this up at my CBT sessions and see what my counsellor says, because my spending is a genuine concern of mine and I don't want to be so irresponsible with money anymore. I'm getting married and we want to start a family. It's time to start being honest with myself and take control, while going a little easier on myself and working on accepting myself for who I am. I love spending but I also sort of hate it because of the effects it has and the consequences it causes. The consequences I cause. I know it really is time to start taking proper care of myself. 


  1. I can really relate to this in way, a lot of the time I spend money to make myself feel better. I suffer from anxiety & depression & I'm taking citalopram too - I found it took a few months until I started feeling better.Thank you for sending me your link, your blog is lovely :) xx

    1. It's great to hear from someone in a similar situation anxiety/depression/medication wise :) I was wondering how long it might take for Citalopram to have an effect as I still feel pretty much the same as before I started it, glad to hear it doesn't necessarily feel like it's doing much start straight away. Thanks so much for popping over and having a read, I was quite nervous about publishing this post but it felt quite good to get it off my chest and out in the open xx

  2. Great post, you're brave for sharing :) and I think a lot of people could relate to this. Meds do take around 6 weeks before you feel any different in my experience. Hope CBT goes well xxx


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