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Is my Son Addicted to Shopping?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 4 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Shopping Addiction Shopping Addiction

Q.My 27 year old son has just confessed to me that he has been stealing money from his housemate - his best friend. He has been doing this over a couple of years but it has escalated recently. His housemate thought he had had his identity stolen never suspecting his closest friend until he owned up.

He says he doesn't really know why he's done it he buys stuff he doesn't really need. He just feels the need to have money and then spend it. He steals the money only after his own months salary has been spent.

He is ashamed and upset. His friend contempated going to the police but has decided against it. I want to help him i don't know what to do.

I don't know if he has an addiction to shopping or if he's just a thief! He is a well educated caring young man this seems out of character. He earns good money as a teacher. He appears devastated and has promised to seek help but we are not sure where to start.

What shall I do?
(J. H., 23 September 2008)


First of all well done on taking the pro-active approach of wanting to help your son with his problem and not condemning him without trying to understand it first; this also applies to his friend who seems to have to have the blunt end of the situation.

From your query it does suggest that your son has a shopping or spending addiction. This type of addiction can normally be classified by the person spending impulsively, irrational, on items they actually do not require, allowing debt to spiral out of control and also trying to hide the problem and the spending.

Shopping can occur for a number of reasons, often the person is suffering from undiagnosed depression and uses the high cause by buying and spending to make them feel better. This depression and low mood may be the result of a relationship problem, problem at work or indeed from any other external source that has had a significant impact on life.

There are some methods you can try to help your son try and recover from his addiction. First of all one of the hardest parts sounds like it has almost been done by your son admitting to the problem or indeed the stealing that has fuelled the addiction.

You can start by stating to your son that you want to help him and will find the resources needed to try and help him but under no circumstance will you tolerate stealing and let him know that if he steals in the future you will have alternative but to tell the police. Secondly, remember to take away all catalogues and junk mail from the home. These items are full of temptation and so called bargains that can entice buyers and give them a way of making useless purchases.

If you have Internet access at home or your son does, is it possible to disconnect it or put a filter in place on shopping sites and the like?There are several counselling services now available for people suffering with shopping addiction as it is becoming increasingly common especially among younger people. A simple search on the Internet or in your local telephone directory should give you some leads.

It may also be wise to see your GP if you have a suspicion that your son has some form of depression as he may well be offered medication which can be taken whilst he recovers from the addiction.

Debt counselling may be wise if he has any debts; you do state that he earns good money but many people suffering with a shopping addiction will have run up debts and kept them secret.

You really must encourage your son to get on top of this problem immediately as it can quickly take a downward spiral and lead to further stealing or trying new things to achieve the same buzz as he gets from it already.

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