At first glance, the pop fiction movie "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is just another superficial chick flick that tells us about as much about the struggles of shopping addiction as "Legally Blonde" did about the challenges of law school. But while it does contain many misconceptions about shopping addiction, there are also some key themes that reflect the reality of the problem.
Childhood Wounds Can Reappear as Addictions
The lead character, Rebecca, experienced humiliation in her childhood over her mother's choice of shoes. This lead to a decision that purchases would bring her happiness, a choice that would become part of her understanding of the world in adulthood.
The Shopping Experience is Ecstatic to Those Addicted
The glorification and glamorization of Rebecca's pursuit of designer clothing and accessories, and her mounting excitement leading up to making a purchase, fits with how shopping addicts describe the process of shopping. At one point, she describes it as, "the best feeling in the world."
Shopping Can Feel More Satisfying Than Relationships
If, like Rebecca, someone finds relationships difficult, shopping can be an easy way to bolster self esteem and self confidence. It can even become a substitute for a genuine relationship.
Shopping Addiction Has Serious Consequences, Such As Debt
Rebecca ran up thousands of dollars of credit card debt on clothing and accessory purchases, leading to being pursued by a debt collector. This lead to problems at work and difficulties in relationships, which were worsened by Rebecca's lying.
Memory Lapses Can Occur
Rebecca completely forgets an important purchase she made for someone else, thinking her credit card must have been stolen. This kind of selective memory loss is common among people with addictions.
Relapses Can Be Triggered
Rebecca is triggered to engage in shopping when she sees the word 'sale,' but she also triggers relapses in the members of her 12-step group by detailing how good shopping feels to her. This is one reason many groups prefer participants avoid talking about engaging in the addiction they have.
Purchases Are Not Needed
Rebecca knows she does not need the items she buys, but she buys them anyway for the emotional benefits she experiences -- however short-lived. Most of what she buys, she simply hoards.
People Who Care About Addicts Often Enable the Addiction to Continue
Rebecca's roommate cares about her, but she actually allows Rebecca's addiction to shopping to continue by allowing her to skip paying rent more than once.