Many students have issues with their finances and responsible spending, but what if you were also trying to balance a shopping addiction?

Truthfal spoke to a Falmouth student – who wishes to be anonymous – about a shopping addiction which has had a significant impact on her work and mental health. The second year student is in serious financial difficulty because she spends all her money on online shopping sites. Despite this issue causing problems in every aspect of her life, she cannot stop.

It is difficult to conceal all the things she owns as a student with limited funds. It is questionable to those around her how she can afford all these new clothes, products, shoes and bags. It has become even more difficult to pretend it’s not a problem after nearly two years of irresponsible spending. Being financially independent for the first time in her life, she has spiralled out of control.

She admits to spending an excessive amount of time and money scrolling through online shopping sites, instead of completing her university work. Due to the amount of money she spends online, she has to have a part time job to try and compensate for the money she loses. “I sometimes work over 20 hours a week to try and prevent myself from having to rely on other people for the money I lose.”

As a full time student, there isn’t enough time for her to keep on top of work and maintain a healthy lifestyle. She doesn’t eat or sleep properly. She can’t afford to buy food. It takes its toll to work long hours at both work and university with limited sleep and a poor diet.

This addiction has caused problems with her friends and family, as despite her best efforts, she heavily relies on them financially. Otherwise she wouldn’t be able to pay her rent or buy food. On occasion, she has even taken her mother’s card details and purchased things online without asking for permission. It’s held her back from trips with her course and friends, as she simply cannot afford to go.

“I miss out on opportunities. I want nothing more than to travel, to save, to invest in something substantial but I don’t feel that I can.”

She suffers with a compulsive and irrational need to buy new clothes and products, as she believes these things will give her a better quality of life. Addiction is typically associated with drug use and alcohol. However, since the rise of the internet, there has been as increase in these kinds of behavioural addictions, as we can get instant gratification from the comfort of our homes.

“It makes me feel better about myself. I’m very insecure about how I look. I think the things I buy will make me feel more attractive. Most of the time I just feel worse,” she sighs, looking down at the floor.

This student’s problem outlines a bigger problem in society, where advertisements on social media, websites and emails constantly bombard us. They are filled with unrealistic constructions of men and women, which many try desperately to attain. Advertising on laptops and smart phones are all tailored to the individual’s interests, constantly seeking to exploit its audience. She feels as though she is “already set up to fail. It’s unescapable”. For those more susceptible to this, it’s easy to fall victim to the advertisements ploys.

“I’m trying to create an image to fulfil a status I don’t feel I have and honestly, I’m not sure I event want.”

At the end of her first semester at university, after spending all the money from student finance and her job, she was minus £1,350 into her overdraft. This left her with only £150 left to live off until she got her next instalment of money, despite it being reckless to continue spending money; she brought a pair of Doc Martin boots for £120.

“Even though I buy things to fulfil a desire to change myself, it rarely makes any difference. I don’t feel more confident. This solution isn’t real, it isn’t tangible, it isn’t fulfilling but I can’t stop.”

It was striking to see her unravel when she started speaking about it, as it became unequivocal to her that she had a problem. She expressed a lot of guilt for the financial burden that lies on her family due to her addiction, as well as for the less privileged people who cannot afford to go to university. She finds is distressing to have a room full of all the things she has brought, but feels “restless” when she doesn’t buy something, claiming it helps her relax.

This is a common issue that many go through, particularly young women. She uses online shopping as a way to make herself feel better and “to fill a void” that she feels she “doesn’t know how to close.” Whilst she does get gratification from it, it isn’t actually satisfying and comes with more troubles as she falls into financial problems. It’s an affliction full of contradictions, one which highlights how empty consumerism is.