I'm really enjoying my psychology class. It's Psych 110, just the basics. I resist the temptation to play amateur psychologist armed with only half a quarter of 100-level knowledge (because it ANNOYS THE HELL OUT OF ME when college kids think they're an expert on a subject after taking one semester of it), but my professor has a PhD in cognitive psych from the University of Chicago and she's a damn smart woman to boot, so I trust what she says.
Last night we were talking about motivation and emotion. She was discussing the various reasons why people are motivated for certain behaviors, and she briefly touched on compulsive shopping and hoarding. Her explanation was that people use this behavior to fill the void in their lives that is usually caused by depression. If someone experiences a sadness mood, they are motivated to change circumstances in their lives. Some people misdirect this motivation into changing material things in their lives (selling a bunch of their own crap on eBay and then buying a bunch of other stuff) rather than changing the things that SHOULD be changed (i.e. their partner, their job, whatever). Ultimately this makes the person more depressed because they've just racked up a bunch of new bills and the new material things didn't make a difference to their depression.
I was all set to get defensive and huffy about this because I hoard perfumes and bath/body stuff, and I also sell stuff I don't want and buy things that other people didn't want. I don't think it has anything to do with trying to fill a void that's caused by depression -- I actually LIKE swapping and hoarding. I feel very pleased and happy when I look at all my BPAL bottles. They're little bottles of beauty, and I'm glad that they're in my life.
If I feel particularly sad one day and I try to soothe myself by buying a BPAL bottle from somebody's swap post, I don't think I should feel bad about it from someone telling me that I'm screwed up psychologically for doing this. Dammit that perfume DOES make me feel better, and I love the anticipation of waiting for some lovely BPAL to show up in my mailbox.
So as I was feeling all defensive and ready to raise my hand and tell the professor "You're WRONG, I indulge in retail therapy on occasion and it's not due to depression it's because I LIKE IT."
And then she said, "People who exhibit this behavior will buy 40 sweaters in one day and never even take them out of the bags, they'll stash the bags in hiding places around the house so that their significant others won't see them. They get no pleasure from actually having the things they bought, they just feel a compulsive need to buy something. Then they'll have no money when it's time to pay the rent or the electric bill or the car payment, so their depression becomes even worse."
Oh. THAT kind of compulsive shopping. Um, yeah. That's not the kind that I do.