Retail therapy? The truth about shopping addiction.

There’s no such thing as a shopaholic right?



You will often hear people call themselves Shopaholics but what actually is a Shopaholic? Although it’s not classified, as an addiction, in the DSM 5, (diagnostic and statistical manual revision 5; the Bible, for medical, and psychological illness.)  There is certainly some evidence to support, the idea of compulsive shopping as an addiction, so much so, that the DSM, may have cause to reclassify their diagnosis.

Oniomania, or shopping addiction, is considered to affect 8% to 6% of UK adults, that’s approximately 8 million people. The idea, that shopping addiction affects women more than men, is supported by research. Nevertheless, if you include, sports equipment, electronic gadgets and computer accessories and software, etc., there is also a prevalence of addictive shopping within men.

The popular idea of shopping being therapeutic, and the idea of being a Shopaholic as something humorous, soon falls away when you consider the real consequences of this compulsive behaviour. Often, the addict is left with crippling debt, severe depression and anxiety. More often than not, as with other addictions, the person with the shopping addiction will start to lose the respect of their loved ones, because of their addiction. Thus increasing their sense of loneliness, which in turn causes the Shopaholic to re- engage in negative or addictive behaviours.

So what drives, shopping addiction?

As with some other addictions, shopping is an easing of negative emotions or psychological pain such as anxiety, sadness, worry and, indeed, loss and loneliness. Shopping, for the addict, as with other behaviours provides an escape, from those feelings which at times can be overwhelming.

Much like any addiction, purchasing and owning, material items, can make the addict feel complete, and give them a sense of euphoria that makes them feel “normal”.

A study carried out at the Tilburg University in the Netherlands found that often loneliness, is one of the key components, of addictive shopping, and tends to make people more materialistic; the study found, there may be a link between hoarding and compulsive shopping, but the two disorders are unique in themselves.

So what is the solution, to shopping addiction?

What’s the answer to shopping addiction, is it simply to reject the inherent need to accumulate material goods; fundamentally is our stuff really that important to us, as human beings?

Letting go of some material possessions is akin to a traumatic event, since for some people this is like letting go of a part of themselves. Disaster victims who have had their homes swept away, often report confusion of identity, in brief their possessions gave them a sense of self.

How do people with compulsive shopping, seek help?

So how does someone with a shopping addiction overcome the anxieties, and concerns of life, without compulsive shopping? Talking to professionals, such as a psychotherapist/counsellor can assist a person becoming, more in contact with themselves.

Often people, will follow the same pattern, having insight into breaking patterns in life is one of the key components, in psychotherapy/counselling.

Having someone to talk to, who is non-judgemental, is a completely unique environment, and one, that has helped thousands of people. This is fundamentally what counsellors/psychotherapists offer.

If any of the issues raised in this blog resonate with you then maybe it’s time to see someone, who can help you such as a psychotherapist /counselor.





Trauma the roots of depression

trauma_eleoscounselling_the growth of depression


One only has to open up the paper to see the devastating consequences of war and the refugees spilling into northern Europe from war-torn countries. Some of these, if not all will be victims of trauma. Alas, you do not have to be a refugee to suffer trauma.

The long-term effects of trauma.

Trauma can be a devastating shock to one’s psyche. Trauma can be linked to physical, sexual, and verbal attacks, or witnessing such attacks. People who have been raped or have witnessed a rape, witnessing a murder or catastrophic accidents, and even people who have been victims to benign medical procedures, have been known to suffer the effects of trauma.

Furthermore, an incident of shaming or an emotional or verbal attack, can leave its effects.  One can also be traumatised after the breakup of a relationship, or a bereavement.

Trauma can shape people’s beliefs about themselves, or life in general. Trauma induced beliefs can be such as “I’m never safe, “no one will love me”, “Love is incredibly dangerous”, “it’s my fault”, “I’m defenceless” thoughts such as these can affect how people, feel about themselves such thoughts can cause depression.

Sometimes a person’s beliefs are based on something that was true at the moment of trauma, such as a feeling of helplessness, this can translate into a general feeling of powerlessness.

Beliefs that are formed due to the consequence of trauma are stored without contextual information. Therefore, a moment of helplessness at the point of trauma can be translated into the core belief that “I am always helpless”. If the person doesn’t get a chance to talk about the traumatic event, and express their emotions regarding this they can carry on holding this belief, for many years, if not for life.

Trauma can be linked with depression

Dramatic events, associated with trauma can turn a moment of helplessness into a person’s belief system. Therefore, it makes sense if people who suffered a traumatic event can suffer from depression, this is amplified by the feeling of powerlessness and this can be translated into the rest of their lives.

If trauma occurs in childhood, such as witnessing a parent being abused by another parent; often the case of domestic violence. A person can be often be left with the feeling of hopelessness, and lack of power, which they had as a child, watching a parent being abused.

So painful are these memories that the person can often develop coping strategies, which become part of their belief system.

Beliefs such as, “I’m a weakling” can become part of the person’s core beliefs, living with this can be difficult, especially for a man, as societal and individual family cultures may say that men have to be stronger than women.

How trauma can define your life.

Returning again to the child who has watched mother being abused by her partner. This child may develop the core belief that they are a coward. Such a child may start picking fights and engaging in risky behaviour at school. Such behaviours will give them a euphoric feeling of control and self-confidence, furthermore, give them a form of relief from the pain of the feeling of their core belief that he or she is weak. Such euphoric feelings can be gratifying and help, he or she’s, desire to avoid any form of shame, therefore they carry on taking risks and engaging in risky behaviours.

In taking such risks he or she starts to form a new identity about themselves, risky behaviour will often get a child in trouble, when they come up against the rules, especially in the education system. This means that kids, such as themselves, are inevitably being pulled into each other’s orbit. Therefore, this makes them hard to do well at school, developing an identity as the tough girl or boy, who is not to be messed with. Often this will lead to, brushes with authority, such as the police, social services and probation.

Beliefs formed at that moment of trauma can come to shape the decisions the victim will make, in later life, such as who he or she will date, what employment, he or she goes into, where eventually they live, and ultimately what company they keep; who their friends are.

The point of realisation: how psychotherapy/counselling can help.

At some point the trauma victim may realise that he or she is depressed, perhaps when a close friend dies from an overdose, or a man or woman they love leaves them, when their behaviour becomes unacceptable, or it could be when they, themselves, overdose, and end up in a hospital A&E.

It is at this point, in the victim’s life that the causes of depression, may be uncovered, this is often when the victim is persuaded to enter psychotherapy/counselling, sometimes this is not the case and the cycle is repeated many times over. In unravelling the victim story, they may become, angry, not only with themselves but also the perpetrator of the trauma. Sometimes this anger is inward turned, and self-hatred can develop over the years, sometimes the anger is at themselves through, taking risks over many years, despite the consequences. Ultimately, their depression began when they watched their mother being abused. When, that trauma is resolved, only then can extricate themselves from responsibility,  realise it was never their fault, coming to the conclusion that they were a child and at that moment freezing was the only thing they could do.

Freedom to redefining oneself after therapy.


At this moment, this moment the victim often has the liberty to redefine themselves, and who they are. Knowing deeply that they were not at fault, as complex of these scenarios are there are many more examples of trauma, but ultimately talking about how you feel, with a trained professional, can help the victim move on, with their life’s.


Obsessed by possessions

Obsessed by possessions



It is reckoned that one in 20 people now struggle with the obsession of acquiring possessions. I’m sure you would have seen the pictures, in the national press and programs on popular television, in which people’s houses become so overrun by possessions, so much so, it has become impossible for them to move around in, their own home, due to their inability to let go of, what some my considered to be rubbish.

Hoarding is nothing new


This is nothing new, in fact, Dante commented on this in his book the Inferno, written in 1300. In fact, Dante called hoarding the sin of greed; illustrating this in his book, by talking about a pair of souls, which are interlinked into one, grotesque creature. One portion who has hoarded all of life, the other one wasted all of life. Join together, in hell. One side gathers coins, whilst the other constantly spews out coins from his chest. The creature also has a gold mace that it can swing around in a circle, and defend itself, when it feels threatened.

What the scientists say about hoarding

Hoarding is only just been differentiated between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Studies of brain activity carried out by David Tolin at Yale University, School of medicine, asked participants in his research to hold an object they owned and decide whether they could throw it away. Unlike people with OCD, hoarders show over activity in the anterior cingulate and the insular cortex, areas of the brain; these areas help people make decisions whether something is important, relevant or salient.

This manifests itself as a form of perfectionism, if you have seen any of the reality TV shows on television you may find it hard to believe that, hoarding is a form of perfectionism; reality TV shows will often show years of decaying rubbish, such as papers and magazines, that the hoarder will not throw out.

Tolin, comments that to think of a hoarder is a perfectionist is counterintuitive, to what we normally think, but it in a way makes perfect sense.

Hoarding happens in many civilisations


Hoarding does not limit itself to Western civilisation, hoarding actually exists in virtually every civilisation.

If you need help Eleos counselling can help

If you, or anybody close to you, has any of the symptoms of hoarding, then may be psychotherapy and counselling can help.

If you would like to click on the link below to be taken to the Eleos counselling main website, where you will find more information.

Link to  web site 


Sticks and stones will break your bones and words will really hurt you: heartbreak and rejection linked to pain centres in brain.

Psychological painThe old adage sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Has now been a study of research carried out by the University of California, Los Angeles. Research scientists Naomi Eisenberger started looking at the effects of human psychological pain and the influence, psychological discomfort, has on us, as humans.

Words can really hurt.


The Eisenberger research looks at the way rejection lingers with us throughout life. An example of this could be not being asked to a friend’s party or included in a friendship group.

Eisenberger and her colleagues’ research, involves using a video game called “cyber ball”; fundamentally, the participants were asked to play a game with three other players, in which all players in the game pass around a virtual ball, but in fact, the participants are not playing with two other players but rather a computer, that is programmed to exclude the volunteer. Participants are observed as the computer stops passing the ball to them. This might seem trivial to some, but some subjects respond strongly, altering their posture in their seats and making rude hand gestures to the screen.

Whilst playing the game, the volunteers are in a functioning MRI scanner. This records the volunteers brain activity and particularly recording activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex ( dACC). The research showed that this area of the brain lights up when the participant feels excluded; this region of the brain is known to be of the pain network.

Eisenberger and her colleagues, study showed that the more distressing we find an injury the more the ( dACC), shows activity.

Eisenberger research is confirmed by other studies, that show a link between social rejection and the( dACC). Further research has also found another part the brain called anterior insula also shows activity; this is associated with physical pain.

Painful relationship break ups can leave their scars

Research carried out by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan, in which the Kross and his colleagues, recruited 40 people who had just been through a relationship breakup within the past six months. Kross’s study involved asking the participants to view a photograph of their ex-partner, whilst plugged into an fMRI scan (a functioning magnetic image residence machine). Kross Research team would then asked the research subjects to think about their relational breakup. After a brief period of time the volunteers were given a painful jolt of heat into their forearm. This allowed the team to compare the two different brain activities, with two different sensations. As one would expect the ( dACC) and the anterior insula both showed activity.

The linking between physical pain and emotional distress, is confirmed by further studies, suggesting that the two experience feed off each other.

One research found out that when people are excluded there more sensitive to pain. One study looked at response people have of being excluded after being burned with a hot probe and submerging their hand into ice water for a minute. The research concluded that we are more sensitive to pain if we’ve been psychologically wounded.

Implications for the future,


The implications of this study, could be that patients with chronic pain, are supported more psychologically, as well as the routine of drugs.

Another implication for this is it might explain why certain people find it hard to withstand the rough-and-tumble of their social life with others.

So you think you can read body language?

Eleos counselling blog_body language


It is a common perception that one’s body language can be read, but how true is this?

In a recent article in New Scientist Magazine the author Caroline Williams debunks some ideas, which are commonly held as true.

The assumption that we can read the persons thoughts and emotions by watching their body language, has been in popular culture for many years with many books written on the subject.

93% of all communication is non-verbal or is it?

A good place to start to look at this is an often quoted statistic, that 93% of our communication is non-verbal, with only 7% being verbal.

This is based on research carried out by Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist based at the University of Los Angeles, in the late 60s. During his research, he found that an emotional message, conveyed with a different tone of voice and face expression, had more impetus than the words being spoken, for example the word “brute” in a positive tone, and with a smile was received positively, consequently the tone of voice and facial expression sent a different message, than the words being used. Researchers found, that subjects, could not differentiate whether the message being communicated, was offensive or well-meaning.

Mehrabian, found that subjects tended to believe the non-verbal cues, over the words being used.

Unfortunately for Mehrabian, he has spent the last 45 years, pointing out that he never meant this research to be taken as any kind of fact, Mehrabian, is often quoted as saying that the results of this research, only applied when there were specific circumstances and conditions – when somebody is talking about their likes and dislikes.

An interesting fact was raised in the article, in as much as, that if 93% of communication is non-verbal, we would not have to learn a new language, we could all read each other, consequently, carrying on that thought, language, would become redundant.

Moreover, one of the things that reading body language is often quoted as being helpful for, is to work out whether somebody is lying or not.

You will often hear poker player saying that other players have what is called “tells”; this can be a body movement, a tension in their face, or a nervous fidget, likewise, something as innocuous as rubbing the left side of your face, therefore reading the “tells” can tell another poker player’s opponent is bluffing.

One often misquote example is “all liars, look to the right, when they are lying” but research carried out by Richard Weisman at the University of Herefordshire UK, found no evidence to support this.

In fact, Weisman’s team used footage of police conferences, for missing people with some of the emotional appeals, asking for information, coming from people who were complicit in the disappearance of the person. Closely examining the footage, it turned out that none of the culprits, looked right, any more than any other direction.

As for other so-called “tells”, after studying more than a hundred cases, the team concluded, that the only bodily sign found in liars ,definitely do more, than people who are telling the truth, is have dilutive pupils and certain kinds of fidgeting or fiddling, with objects or scratching.

So how do I spot a liar if you can’t read body language successfully?

In fact, the best way to spot a liar, the study found, was not to watch the person’s body language, but to listen to the inflection on the words they use, the syntax, and what they are saying. The study found that liars tend to talk in a higher pitched voice and gave few details of their account of events and tended to repeat words, and are generally have more negative attitude, in their assessment of events.

In conclusion, the overall research points to good old gut feeling, to spot a liar. g. One obvious problem with body language is that people who tell the truth can exhibit the same body language as those who lie.


An interesting spinoff to the subject body language is research carried out by is a TED talk by Amy Cuddy. Also we have commented on this in a previous blog