ADHD

ADHD and Impulsive Shopping

You head to the store to pick up a few necessities. But somehow, you come home with overflowing shopping bags, and you’ve spent well beyond what you had originally planned.

Or maybe you’re shopping online for a gift for your friend. Before you know it, you have a dozen tabs open and your cart is filling up with items from your own wish list. All the while, you still haven’t picked out that gift.

If these scenarios sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. Plenty of people have a shopping habit they’re trying to kick. But it’s worth thinking about the reasons why you end up overspending on impulse buys, especially if it happens frequently.

As it turns out, ADHD may actually be linked to this behavior in some cases. Learn more about the connection between ADHD and impulse buying and get tips for reining in your spending responsibly.

ADHD Brains and Impulsivity

Before diving into the specifics of impulse buys, it helps to understand how ADHD and impulsivity are connected in a broader sense. 

For many people with ADHD, impulsivity is one of their primary symptoms. Generally, this means that they are prone to take action without thinking through the consequences. Although others might view this as a lack of self-discipline or immaturity, it’s actually related to how your brain works.

In an ADHD brain, the thalamus isn’t as effective at controlling your response inhibition. As a result, it’s harder to resist the temptation when you have a sudden or intense desire.

Similarly, ADHD can have an inhibiting effect on the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the area that controls your executive function and decision making. It’s easy to see how that can potentially lead to some irresponsible or even reckless choices when it comes to how you spend your money.

How Impulse Buying Happens with ADHD

Let’s go back to the concept of executive function, which is often impacted significantly when you have ADHD. When you take a look at what types of symptoms can result from a lack of executive function, the reasons behind your impulse buys can become a bit clearer. 

The following are some of the signs of poor executive functioning:

Time blindness

Time blindness makes it difficult to conceptualize and plan out your time in the short- and long-term. That means you end up focusing on the present rather than future. With impulse buying, time blindness can lead to more debt and less savings.

Forgetfulness

People with ADHD may have more trouble remembering information. Some impulse buys occur when people purchase things they forgot they already have.

Disorganization

Problems with staying organized can lead people to make more impulse purchases. When a belonging is misplaced or difficult to find in a cluttered mess, your frustration might lead you to just buy it again to solve the problem. 

Poor emotional regulation

Problems with regulating emotions are common in people with ADHD. Whether you’re excited, sad, or angry, you might find that you’re more likely to make impulse buys when your emotions are running high. In these situations, the purchase might function like an outlet for intense feelings.

The Fallout from Impulsive Spending

The lasting impact of impulse buying can be pretty serious. Depending on how much and how often you make these purchases, it can have significant ripple effects that bleed into other areas of your life. 

It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to experience disadvantages as a result of their financial impulsivity, such as:

  • Lack of savings
  • Excessive debt
  • Unpaid bills and late fees
  • Lower credit score
  • Lack of investments and retirement savings
  • More obstacles to obtain loans
  • Instability in terms of food, housing, etc.
  • Strain on personal relationships

These are some of the reasons why it’s so important to take steps to curb your impulse spending. 

Tips for Curbing Impulse Spending 

Much of the advice given to other people who overspend due to reasons unrelated to ADHD may not be effective in your situation. When you have ADHD, it’s not as simple as just setting a budget and sticking to it. If you’re trying to reduce the frequency of your impulse buys, you have to consider how your ADHD comes into play

It’s can be challenging to take preventative steps when you truly struggle with impulsive actions due to your ADHD, but it’s essential for protecting your finances and even your relationships over time. Try using the following targeted tips to help curb your impulsive buying:

  • Carry cash when you shop. Budgeting with a debit or credit card can be tricky if you struggle to think through the financial ramifications on the spot. By leaving cards at home, you can set reasonable limits and relax as you shop knowing that you brought just enough to cover what you set out to purchase. 
  • Block websites where you like to shop. That doesn’t mean you can never shop online. Instead, you can wait until you don’t feel that emotions or impulses will affect your purchases and intentionally unblock the site for a short period of time.
  • Bring a buddy. Go shopping with a trusted friend or family member who will help you think through purchases and avoid overspending. This works for the online shopping tip above as well if you decide to only unblock sites when you have your shopping buddy present to lend a hand.
  • Create a rule. If possible, try to implement a strategy to help avoid impulse buys. For example, you could wait 48 hours to take tags off a new item so you have the chance to return it if you realize later that you don’t need it.
  • Talk to a behavioral therapist. If you’re still struggling even with these tips, consider talking to a behavioral therapist with experience helping clients with ADHD. They can help you to eliminate unwanted behaviors and gain greater control over your impulses. 
  • Ask about medication. Some people benefit from taking prescription medication for ADHD. Talk to your doctor about whether this option might be helpful for you.

Even if you’ve had issues with excessive spending for years, it’s never too late to start working toward healthier shopping habits. With Done, you can book an appointment with a licensed practitioner online or in person to get a custom treatment plan based on your unique needs.


Resources:

https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-brain-impulsivity-explained/

https://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/oops-that-was-impulsive/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/executive-function

https://www.health.com/condition/adhd/time-blindness-impulsive-spending-adhd-symptoms

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-31/how-adhd-affects-your-wallet-mental-health-kids/11158952

https://chadd.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Curb-Impulsive-Spending-to-Help-Your-Relationship-Handout.pdf

https://www.additudemag.com/budgeting-tips-for-adhd-brains/

https://www.additudemag.com/impulse-buying-money-problems-adhd-adults/

https://edgefoundation.org/tips-for-curbing-the-adhd-spending-impulse/


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