Carla Sosenko couldn't stop herself racking up a massive debt. Picture: iStock
Carla Sosenko couldn't stop herself racking up a massive debt. Picture: iStock

Shopaholic blew $150k in six months

A WOMAN who blew thousands of dollars on impulse purchases has warned others of the danger of compulsive buying disorder.

Carla Sosenko splurged almost $150,000 on "shoes, clothes, furniture, and other stuff I can barely remember now" in the space of a few months.

But after dipping into her retirement fund, the writer knew something had to change.

Living in Brooklyn in the United States, Ms Sosenko told Cosmopolitan about compulsive buying disorder (CBD) and how it nearly derailed her life.

"When I'm about to buy something, I can't focus on anything else," she said.

"My mind starts rushing. Should I buy this bag? Should I go back to the other bag? Should I buy neither? It's just a bag, but the anxiety it brought was real.

"I convinced myself that I could still walk away, that I hadn't actually done anything yet. But I wanted this. Actually, it felt like something a lot closer to need."

But Ms Sosenko admitted that when the bag did arrive, she merely tossed it on to a pile of other impulse buys.

She explained the rush was in the buying itself, and not the actual item.

"Stuff arrived at my apartment nearly every day," Ms Sosenko said.

"I had window sills stacked with sunglasses, chairs piled with clothes, and a closet full of new outfits."

The desire to shop was made all the more easy with technology, with PayPal and ApplePay allowing her to buy things at the touch of a button and no longer having to physically find her card.

And the internet was open 24/7 - you can buy what you want, when you want.

Not just cheap, practical items - Ms Sosenko also lusted after Chloé shoes, Balenciaga and Mansur Gavriel bags - anything to "complete my Brooklyn cool-girl uniform".

But after leaving a job she loved and moving to one she didn't, her anxiety built.

Ms Sosenko leant on her shopping habit as a method of coping, admitting it "soothed" her.

But soon the bills began to spiral out of control, and her income barely covered her outgoings.

"In addition to shopping more often, I'd been shopping bigger," she said.

Her habit became more expensive, and she began buying $2700 dresses instead of $540 ones, telling herself they were "investments".

Ms Sosenko even dipped into her retirement savings to fund her addiction. Picture: iStock
Ms Sosenko even dipped into her retirement savings to fund her addiction. Picture: iStock

Instead of tackling the problem head-on, she decided to dip into her retirement fund.

"It's for retirement, but I figured one withdrawal wasn't a big deal," Ms Sosenko said.

"Of course what initially felt like a get-out-of-jail free card quickly morphed into permission to keep spending.

"Another withdrawal followed, and then another. My retirement fund was disappearing.

"I pictured myself old and alone, struggling to survive financially, because I'd wasted all my money on stuff.

"I've never been suicidal, but I sometimes found it comforting to think, 'Maybe I'll get hit by a bus and won't have to worry about it.'"

It was at this point she knew things had to change - after spending $149,000 in just six months.

Ms Sosenko broached the subject of her spending with her therapist, and quit shopping cold turkey, removing all the apps from her phone and banning herself from dipping into her retirement fund.

With only one setback after falling out with a friend, she's slowly chipping away at her massive bills.

Ms Sosenko said she feared being seen as a "privileged consumer" who just needs willpower, but that compulsive buying disorder (CBD) releases dopamine - just the same as any other addiction.

It's also not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Health Disorders (DSM) and as people are encouraged to buy and be consumers, it can be hard to recognise it as a condition and get help.

But Terry Shulman, a mental health counsellor and founder of the Shulman Centre for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding, said a shopping addiction brought many of the negative consequences of other addictions.

"It's assumed the person is materialistic or a poor money manager," he said.

"But CBD can really get people in trouble."


This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished here with permission