ADHD/Shopping Addiction, struggling t... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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ADHD/Shopping Addiction, struggling to be financially responsible....

courtm187 profile image

I've always had a shopping addiction, especially related to clothes.

In college, I would order packages every week and walk all the way across campus to the mail center, and it would be so excited to carry that package home, try on the clothes I'd ordered from Forever 21, just bask in that rush of dopamine. Then I would add those clothes to my bulging closet, probably wear them once or twice - never getting the same joy as when I first tried them on. I would have to buy more clothes to get that feeling again.

Everywhere I've lived, before long I get the nickname of "the girl who gets SO many packages." Previous landlords have asked me if I'm running a side business. I used to check delivery trackers and run home to grab packages from the front porch and hide them in my room so my roommate wouldn't see. At one point I set up my packages to be shipped to a UPS store, but then the people at the front desk would make comments - "oh, you again." I found a new UPS branch. Eventually they got used to my habits too.

When I'm feeling down, I go on Poshmark and browse, liking lots of different used clothes listings. It's an awesome way to keep my mind busy while I'm trying to watch a movie or work. Then I get a "rush" when I get a notification that a listing I liked has sent me a lower offer. Then I fake-ponder for a few hours until I can't stop thinking about the item, and rush back to purchase it. Some days I get 3-4 packages - yay! - and I can't even remember what's in them - Santa!

I have a lot of pretty clothes, but the irony is I spend most of my time wearing pajamas. Not even the cute pajamas I've bought, but the old shirts from work events I got for free. My house is so messy, just filled with THINGS I've bought. I look around and I say, why am I like this?? I don't want to be broke/in debt/overwhelmed with clutter.


I've had so many interventions - with myself, with my mom who has bailed me out (hello privilege), with my friends - I've had friends who want me to text them every time I felt the urge to buy something (I will at first, and then my shame and impulses overcome me and I stop). I've sat down and made budgets for myself. I've taken out so many personal loans. I've tried to occupy myself with non-online shopping browsing when I'm really bored - looking at real estate or researching movies or vacation destinations. I'll give myself a month where I'm not allowed to buy any new clothes. I've talked to my therapist about it. I've cancelled my Amazon account.

I'm afraid I'm going to keep on this cycle, racking up debt and clutter, for the rest of my life, and I hate it. I want so much to change but I feel like I have tried EVERYTHING.

The day I got diagnosed with ADHD, I went, "oh, that makes a lot of sense" and immediately went to Target and spent $300 on random pillows and swim coverups.

I can feel myself putting a lot of hope into medication, thinking maybe that will reduce my shopping impulses. Adderall just made my depression worse (see previous post), and I'm already on Prozac, but I still get depressed sometimes and shopping is a quick pick-me-up. There's definitely a correlation between being depressed and shopping. But it's frustrating that after so much therapy, and antidepressants (and I will say my experience on Prozac has been very positive), I still have the same habit.

The thing about knowing about my ADHD is, it does make SO much sense. I can literally feel the dopamine as I'm shoving items into my cart, at the store or online. If I had more dopamine, would I feel the need to have this behavior? Is it addiction? Is it simply an impulse problem?

My friend recently said to me that she didn't understand why I have this problem, because I'm so "responsible" and "logical" and I have a budget. I know perfectly well that this dress doesn't fit into my budget, but I'll buy it anyways. If I'm so reasonable, then why can't I just stop?

18 Replies

I so can relate !! I do know that lack of dopamine is certainly part of ADHD as well as Addiction but for some reason I have never had a Doctor prescribe dopamine...not even sure that is a possibility? But dang that would certainly help me !! Hang in there ♥️

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to merseal226

I wish a doctor could prescribe me dopamine!

MtMan profile image
MtMan in reply to merseal226

There are companies that sell "dopamine," but it doesn't work because the absorption process if you ingest it or administer it like we do a pill or liquid does not function the same way the natural process does.

The key for me has been to determine my individual natural dopamine level and learn to enjoy a natural level through behavior modification and medication, rather than trying to satisfy an unnaturally high level as "demanded" by my brain's ADHD-induced chemical imbalance.

It is much the same as a drug addict who becomes abstinent; they have to learn to find satisfaction in natural highs because the unnaturally high thresholds they set through continuous drug use left them chronically dissatisfied with natural dopamine levels.

I totally understand this!!! The way I see it, aside from the dopamine thing, is that we are so always in the “now” moment that we can’t regularly see the rest of the potential fallout from our choices.

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to Cljm

you can show me the budget I made myself, show me how much credit card debt I have and how much this will hurt me financially, and I will still buy it

This could be bipolar mania. I have bipolar type 2 and compulsive spending is a trademark characteristic. I've blown tens of thousands of dollars on literal crap that I can't remember. An atypical antipsychotic usually evens things out - not TOO happy or too depressed. Also, look into genetic testing. Prozac blocks the enzyme that metabolizes adderall, cytochrome p450 cyp2d6. There might be possibly something going on there. Genetically, we all have a certain way of metabolizing these drugs. Throw in another drug that can interfere with that, and it gets complicated. If you're a rapid metabolizer, you won't be getting the full effects of adderall. Genesis, genomind, and other companies are all on the market for psychotropic genetic testing. It could be a big help. Mine revealed that I need special methylfolate that acts as a cofactor to the neurotransmitters the drugs are affecting. Without the supplement, the drugs wouldn't work as well. Take care and stay safe.

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to jonghee

wow. medications are so complicated.

Hi There, I can relate w/ the shopping for the thrill & needing to get a handle on the situation. The best thing that I found that worked is “ FPU” Dave Ramsey’s financial peace university. It saved me from myself. I will Never use credit cards, or debt to make purchases, only cash & a debit card. I have one cc for travel expenses & it gets paid off monthly. His plan gives you the steps & tools you need to make the changes in your life. Good luck I hope this helps!

Hi courtm187 ,Have you ever read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg? It's a great book, even if it's not written with an ADHD audience in mind so its lessons may be harder to apply. He describes how behind our habits is a 3 part loop: the cue, the routine, and the reward. Duhigg says “To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” Most cues for habits fall into one of five categories:

1. Location

2. Time

3. Emotional state

4. Other people

5. The preceding action

You mentioned shopping when you are "feeling down," so it sounds like #3 applies to you. But you could start taking notes on these 5 aspects whenever you start shopping if you think the trigger is more complicated than this. Once you recognize what's triggering the habit, ask yourself what it's doing for you. What is shopping doing for you emotionally? What else could trigger that same emotional reward without racking up credit card expenses? Try experimenting with substituting another routine with the same trigger and reward to replace the habit.

Again, this is easier said than done for those of us with ADHD. We're not exactly known for following through on goals or resisting impulsivity. 🙂 But if and when you are able to pull off a habit, I find it to be incredibly valuable as an ADHDer.

Example of a habit loop (from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)

I am sorry you have struggled for so many years with this issue. It is so hard to live with something that feels out of control; regardless whether is is physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral.

When I read your description of your "shopping addiction," two thoughts came to mind. First, the DSM-5 only recognizes one behavioral addiction: gambling. So technically, shopping is not an addiction.

Before anyone responds negatively to that assertion, let me add that from your message that your frustration, pain, and obsession are VERY real, although I suggest it is not shopping you are addicted to, but shopping has become your "drug of choice" to fill an unidentified emotional "hole."

And as with any other artificial dopamine spike (for example, I have read that the average human being runs at 40-70 ng/dl of dopamine and methamphetamine spikes at over 1,000, no wonder it is so addictive!) there is no satisfaction or resolution; only a temporary rush that will never satisfy.

If I may make a suggestion, perhaps self-discovery or the assistance of a caring therapist could help you identify what emotional void you are unsuccessfully trying to fill; so that you can resolve the underlying issues...and remove the "need" to shop.

Good luck!

Frankieh15 profile image
Frankieh15 in reply to MtMan

Mine gambling addiction and been diagnosed with adhd I feel like I’m never right inside my mind and got some type of void am trying to fill and always have it’s like it takes my mind if the stuff going through but then in long run only makes it thousand times worse I’ve been out on xaggitin XL 36mg and feel like they help but wear if and then that feeling comes back of looking to fill the void again mind racing nervous and manic I can’t stand it. I have had years where I’ve not gambled and then when I do it’s like I can’t get out of the pit and I’m struggling at the minute so it’s hard for me. Gambling is a real horrible addiction and do anything to remove it from my life. I need something I can do to replace the gambling but without it becoming an addiction I find I become very addicted or obsessed with anything that I know will stop my mind racing. Your post was so true also really good it’s like you hit nail on the head.


courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to Frankieh15

my heart goes out to you - I know how hard behavioral addictions are. It's really like there's a void we need to fill and logic goes out the window, we can't stop doing it even though we fully know how damaging it is. Hang in there :)

Hi there! Just wanted to say that this sounds pretty darn relatable in lots of ways. I haven't nailed my systems surrounding this other than to limit my access to some of the spots, like Target for me too, where I tend to overspend. It's not fun to feel like I "can't" go there but it definitely helps when I need. The other piece that has helped me a ton is trying to get underneath some of the times I feel compelled to go and shop and find the "why". I found that I often use a variety of self-soothing behaviors when I feel stressed, overwhelmed, shame, sadness... whatever it is (sometimes just too many happy emotions also) to help 'regulate' my system. It helped me to understand that this is NOT a willpower issue but instead a completely logical response to feeling overwhelmed in some way. Learning to recognize and deal with those things helped me to move away from all of those reactions a bit more.

It's not easy but you can definitely do it! Hope you gain some traction and feel more balanced soon! <3

I want to remember this line for the future:

"this is NOT a willpower issue but instead a completely logical response to feeling overwhelmed in some way."

that is so true!

Yes I self medicate with shopping online and stalk the porch for the stuff I bought, only to have it sit on my floor in the box or bag and use it once wear it once... 🤦🏻‍♀️ It’s so annoying

courtm187 profile image
courtm187 in reply to Foxfur

wow.....someone who understands!!

Foxfur profile image
Foxfur in reply to courtm187

😂 I’m sure there are others they just don’t realize it🤷🏻‍♀️

Before I was diagnosed, my impulsivity led me to a lot of debt. Family (when they found out!) couldn’t understand how or why I’d got myself into such a lot of debt because I had a responsible, reasonable pay job. I got myself into about £11,500 debt - which I struggled to repay, was getting menacing letters threatening bailiffs, civil recovery, etc.

Added onto that was the multiple phone calls daily from the several creditors I owed money to, demanding immediate repayment. I couldn’t, as I hadn’t any money to.

Head in sand for an aeon, eventually I got professional help to sort the mess out. They negotiated on my behalf. It took 10 1/2 years to repay it all, as amid all the repayments I became unemployed. I still had to repay, even on “the dole”. But I did it.

Learning the hard way to communicate with creditors early, was so difficult. Especially as I don’t confide in anyone, usually. Many creditors will help you come up with a way to pay them, providing you communicate honestly, and early.

Now I’ve organised my bank accounts differently, I don’t and won’t have an overdraft, and if I want to buy something I save up (I even have a little bit saved, ‘just in case’).

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