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Section 5
Pathological Buying

CEU Question 5 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Addictions CEU Courses
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On the last track, we discussed reactions that occur when clients are confronted with their compulsive spending.  These reactions included:  shame; gender-related reactions; and defensiveness.

On this track, we will discuss clients who compulsively spend for malicious reasons.  These reasons include:  deliberate lying; cheating; and revenge spending.

3 Malicious Reasons for Compulsive Spending

#1 - Deliberate Lying
The first type of malicious spending is deliberate lying.  In some cases, as we have discussed on other tracks, the shop-aholic client avoids telling.  However, in case of deliberately lying clients, the compulsive spender purposely deceives his or her partner.  Laurie, age 35, lied constantly to her husband Hank about how much she spends.  Hank had always known that Laurie like to spend money on redecorating the house, so when he asked her how much she spent at the store, Laurie cut down the amount by half. 

Laurie stated, "He gets so worked up about little things that I’ll lie just to avoid the hassle.  Plus, he’s happier not knowing the truth."  However, when Hank discovered the credit card debt that Laurie had accrued, he felt betrayed.  Hank stated, "She lied to me, to my face.  I can’t believe she would do that!  I’ll never be able to trust her again."  In Laurie’s mind, the frustration she avoided was worth the trust she risked in her relationship.  She didn’t quite realize the extent to which Hank would be hurt.  I explained to Laurie, "When something like deception in money can completely destroy a relationship.  When something like this is uncovered, the innocent person, like Hank, may never be able to restore trust again." 

Think of your Laurie.  How would you explain the destructive power of deliberate lying to your client?

#2 - Cheating
The second type of malicious spending is cheating.  In the case of a cheating client, he or she will steal from his or her partner or other people in order to feed their compulsive spending.  Rob, age 47, had stolen one hundred dollars of his wife’s birthday money.  Rob stated, "I was going to tell her, just before she found out.  I was only borrowing it."  A few weeks later, his wife Ann came to me and stated, "Someone called our home yesterday looking for Rob.  They told me that he had been caught accepting kickbacks from a vendor he’d encouraged his company to use.  Not only that, he’s been stealing from me again." 

Rob stated, "If I had told Ann on the outset what had been going on, she might have left me right then and there!  I can’t be without someone!  I’m so afraid I’m going to end up alone."  I explained to Rob, "In a relationship, the strongest bonds are based on trust.  When you break that trust, whether Ann finds out or not, can break that bond.  So by lying, you lose your integrity and the opportunity to have a meaningful and trusting relationship."  Think of your Rob and Anne.  How would you address his or her deliberate lying?

Technique:  Avoiding Communication Traps
To help Laurie and Rob communicate with their partners in a more effective way, I asked them to try "Avoiding Communication Traps."  I gave them and their partners each a list of reactions that can hurt communication between partners.  I felt that this exercise is beneficial in helping compulsive spenders who lie and cheat to break out of their habits.  Also, this exercise keeps their partners from becoming too angry and shutting down all communication.  Listen to the following tips.  What would you include?  What would you leave out?  I gave my clients a list of the following techniques to avoid communication traps:

7 Techniques to Avoid Communication Traps

  1. No angry explosions.  Don’t attack in anger and exasperation with outbursts like "I can’t believe you spent that much!"
  2. No scare tactics.  Threats of imminent disaster, such as "If you keep this up, we’re going to go bankrupt" will usually bounce off of your partner.
  3. No threats or ultimatums.  Your partner already feels helpless enough against his or her compulsion.  Threats simply add more feelings of guilt and despair to an already crushing burden.
  4. No nasty accusations.  A quick way to derail your dialogue is to start calling each other names.
  5. No guilt trips or sweeping criticisms.  Don’t take an occasional oversight or a modest flaw and blow it up into earthshaking proportions.
  6. No parental platitudes.  Try not to sound like your father or mother.  Such sayings as "Do you think money grows on trees" can be demeaning.
  7. No one-upmanship.  Trying to blame the other will only turn your communication in circles.

Think of your compulsive spending clients.  Would they benefit from "Avoiding Communication Traps?"

#3 - Revenge Spending
In addition to deliberate lying and cheating, the third type of malicious spending is revenge spending.  When a compulsive spending client feels powerless, he or she will try to regain that power by hitting his or her partner where it hurts the most.  Caroline, age 52, believed that her husband, Frank, was having an affair with a much younger coworker.  Caroline, a mild compulsive spender, was pushed over the edge when she heard a message lest on the machine by the younger coworker.  In retaliation, Caroline emptied Frank’s bank account and spent the resulting cash on a shopping trip to New York. 

She stated, "I just went nuts.  I felt so pushed aside and unloved, I wanted to hit him where it hurts.  I don’t really quite know what came over me."  Had Caroline been more communicative in her relationship with Frank, she might have avoided hurting her husband through his pocket book.  Think of your Caroline.  How would you address his or her revenge spending habit?

On this track, we discussed clients who compulsively spend for malicious reasons.  These reasons included:  deliberate lying; cheating; and revenge spending.

On the next track, we will examine techniques useful in preparing a client to fight compulsive spending.  These techniques include:  "Compiling a Money History"; "Conversation with Money"; and "Commentary."

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Allom, V., Mullan, B. A., Monds, L., Orbell, S., Hamilton, K., Rebar, A. L., & Hagger, M. S. (2018). Reflective and impulsive processes underlying saving behavior and the additional roles of self-control and habit. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 11(3), 135–146.

Bennett, D., Sutcliffe, K., Tan, N. P.-J., Smillie, L. D., & Bode, S. (2021). Anxious and obsessive-compulsive traits are independently associated with valuation of noninstrumental information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(4), 739–755.

Ladd, B. O., Murphy, J. G., & Borsari, B. (2020). Integration of motivational interviewing and behavioral economic theories to enhance brief alcohol interventions: Rationale and preliminary examination of client language. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication.

Nicolai, J., & Moshagen, M. (2017). Dissociating pathological buying from obsessive-compulsive symptoms using delay discounting. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 225(3), 244–251.

Steingut, R. R., Patall, E. A., & Trimble, S. S. (2017). The effect of rationale provision on motivation and performance outcomes: A meta-analysis. Motivation Science, 3(1), 19–50.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 5
What are three types of malicious spending? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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