How Texting Might Help You Stop Shopping Too Much

A text is no longer just a text. Text messaging, it turns out, may even be a handy tool that helps you get healthier. Specifically, more doctors, therapists and other health care providers are using our favorite mode of communication to send friendly reminders and gentle nudges that do everything from helping us to cut back on drinking and stopping smoking to managing type 2 diabetes and eating disorder symptoms.

And now you can add “cut back on your compulsive shopping” to that list, thanks to a just-launched texting program developed by psychologist April Benson, PhD, an expert in compulsive buying disorder (CBD), founder of Stopping Overshopping and an Addiction.com blogger. Dr. Benson’s program, called Stopping Overshopping Text Messaging Program, is a three-month, paid plan that specifically addresses compulsive overspending with targeted text messages and support when you need them most. “So many overshoppers use their cellphones to overshop,” says Benson. “This [text messaging program] was a way to turn the technology on its ear and use it to help people stop overshopping … It’s the first interactive text messaging program to help people stop overshopping and overspending.”

Texts to Help Stop Shopping Addiction

Priced at $24.95 for three months of texts, Benson’s program may be a much less expensive alternative to traditional psychotherapy, especially if there doesn’t happen to be a therapist near you who understands CBD, or if your insurance company doesn’t cover counseling. “Not only is it more affordable than other methods of shopping addiction treatment, it’s also available anywhere, anytime,” says Benson. She chose the three-month timeframe because user testing showed this was effective for most people, but you can renew your subscription to the program after the three months if you need to.

The program works by sending you personalized texts that relate to your particular overshopping profile, your triggers and your goals. These daily reminders help users make better decisions about buying. Texts arrive several times a day, and when there’s a particularly troublesome time — like Black Friday — the program bumps up the frequency of messaging to offer extra support. Users can also text the system when they have an impulse to shop or have already started, and they get a return text immediately, which helps them take an all-important pause between impulse and action. The messages feel similar to the encouragement you’d get from a good friend or a trusted counselor. Some examples:

  • Don’t give yourself an excuse for failure. Create self-control strategies well in advance.
  • The less time you spend shopping, the easier it will be to resist the impulse to overshop.

While Stopping Overshopping may help you gain control of your urges to hit the mall in search of the next great deal, it does, of course, tether you to the your cell, so if online shopping is your particular issue, this is something to consider. For many shopaholics, however, that’s a chance they may be willing to take to get their spending under control. “People are more likely to continue healthier choices when text messaging is used,” too, adds Benson.

The Health Benefits of Texting

Studies show that text messaging programs can encourage the prevention of disease, promote health and help people better manage a chronic condition, like type 2 diabetes, says Benson. A 2015 meta-analysis of text messaging programs for smoking cessation in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that participants in a text-messaging intervention group had quit-smoking rates 36% higher compared to the study’s control group, which received no messages.

Research has also shown text messaging programs to be helpful for some eating disorders. A 2012 Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology study found that receiving messages by phone helped patients maintain improvement in bulimia symptoms following inpatient treatment.

Even better, text messaging programs are inexpensive and can easily reach a huge number of people in need (most of us are within earshot of our phones 24/7, after all). If you’re not sure whether you or someone you love has compulsive buyer disorder, you can learn more about Shopping Addiction here.

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