Episode 372: Finding Balance in College & Spending Addiction

Hello, friends! Hope you’re all doing splendidly.

Today’s episode dives into the nuances of financial anxieties and the challenges of managing impulsive shopping habits. Two heartfelt listener questions guide our discussion, shedding light on personal struggles and the broader societal context:

Tackling Shopping Habits & ADHD:

  • A loyal follower from Vermont expresses concerns over her shopping habits, leading to financial difficulties, accentuated by her newly diagnosed adult ADHD.
    • We delve into the difference between compulsive shopping and anxiety-driven financial behaviors, offering clarity and understanding.
    • The profound influence of ADHD on financial decisions: a look into impulsivity and executive dysfunction.
    • Addressing societal pressures, the modern capitalist world, and their impacts on our financial stresses.

Strategies for Financial Well-being:

  • Exploring actionable steps to regain financial control and establish a balanced relationship with money.
    • Emphasizing the importance of budgeting and planning to avoid impulsive bill payments and purchases.
    • Techniques to curb immediate spending impulses and create a waiting period before making purchases.
    • The value of community support, accountability, and journaling for self-awareness and reflection.
    • The potential for therapy to understand and address deep-seated beliefs and behaviors about money.

Remember, seeking balance and understanding in our relationship with money is a journey, not a destination. Taking proactive steps, seeking support, and focusing on self-awareness can pave the way for healthier financial habits.

As always, feel free to send your questions to duffthepsych@gmail.com. You can find the detailed show notes for this episode at http://duffthepsych.com/episode372


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Question 1

Hi Dr. Duff! I am a new listener to your podcast, and I so enjoy your content! I hope you are aware of the vast impact you are having on the wellness of people around the world. It’s really powerful!

Anyway, I am currently a sophomore at my local community college. As I said before, I really enjoy your content, but some of it I find it hard to relate to, sense I have not yet reached the major life stages your episodes often address . In other words, my whole life is being a student, not a parent, spouse, or even too much of an “adult”. And so, I want to make a request!

One of my largest struggles as a student is finding balance with work and wellness. I am working towards a difficult field of study , and while this is important to who I am, I know I have so many other areas of my identity to grow. And so, I am encouraging you to think back to your student days, and perhaps talk a little more about how you coped and found balance as a student, or if you didn’t, how you simply made the most of being a stressed out student! I am not sure if you have made an episode talking about student wellness, clearly I need to do my research too. However, if you haven’t, I guarantee you that I am not the only student that enjoys your podcast, and would greatly appreciate food for thought specifically related to being a student.

Thank you so much!


Firstly, thank you for your kind words and the thoughtful question. It’s heartwarming to know the impact my content has, especially on our younger listeners. I understand that some topics might resonate more with older audiences, so it’s always refreshing to address challenges faced by younger demographics, such as college students.

Finding a balance between academic responsibilities and personal well-being is a challenge faced by many. I deeply resonate with your sentiment. College is often glamorized as the ‘best years of one’s life’, but the reality can be more nuanced. The stress, pressure, and challenges of transitioning into adulthood while navigating a rigorous academic landscape can be daunting.

From my experience, both as a student and later as a psychologist and educator, I’ve observed and felt the strains of college life. The pressure to excel academically, coupled with personal and social challenges, can become overwhelming. Personally, I juggled various roles, from being a departmental assistant, a behavioral therapist, to club leaderships, all while maintaining my academic performance. Looking back, it was a lot.

However, there are strategies and perspectives that can help you navigate this phase of life more smoothly:

  1. Recognize the Multifaceted Nature of College Life: College isn’t just about academics. It’s a time of identity exploration, emotional development, and stepping into adulthood. Balancing these elements is key.
  2. Find Communities: College offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Surrounding yourself with diverse groups of people can offer a respite from academic pressures. Friends who share your academic aspirations can be your allies during study sessions, while those with different interests can introduce you to new hobbies and activities.
  3. Organize and Plan: As the reins of responsibility shift to you, it’s imperative to develop a system to track tasks, prioritize assignments, and maintain a calendar. This organization can also serve as a tool for self-care, ensuring you allocate time for relaxation alongside work.
  4. Mindfulness and Self-Care: Engage in activities that rejuvenate you. For some, it might be journaling, for others, physical activities like sports. Discover what works for you.
  5. Evaluate Pressures: If you find yourself burning out, it’s essential to reassess your commitments. There’s no shame in seeking help. Many universities offer counseling services – make use of them if needed.
  6. Digital Hygiene: In our interconnected age, managing digital consumption is crucial. Social media can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy, with curated lives often painting an unrealistic picture. Consider taking breaks from these platforms, limit notifications, and curate your content consumption.

In closing, while grades and academic achievements are essential, especially if they align with your goals, they aren’t the sole measure of your worth or success. Embracing a holistic approach to college life, one that values personal well-being alongside academic pursuits, will serve you in good stead. Remember, with hindsight, perspectives change. Always prioritize self-care. Best of luck in your journey!

Question 2

Hello! I saw your post on FB and as a follower I would love to ask your thoughts on the best way to help shopping addiction which lead to huge money issues.

I have anxiety/depression which is under control at the moment though a bit stress/anxiety over money and newly diagnosed adult ADD. I get paid and then anxiously pay bills except I don’t wait long enough and end up overpaying because I am so anxious to get bills paid. Then I buy groceries etc. and am overdrawn again. It’s a vicious cycle and as I have no support or backup (I have a therapist I mean in my personal life support), I need to learn how to control this.

Would love your thoughts and anxiously in a positive way await your new book! Thank you from a loyal follower in Vermont


It’s always heartwarming to connect with loyal followers, and I’m thrilled to delve into a topic that resonates with many: the challenge of shopping habits leading to financial issues.

To begin, I’d like to commend you on your journey towards mental well-being. Managing anxiety and depression is a commendable achievement, and your proactive stance in seeking a diagnosis for adult ADHD highlights your commitment to self-awareness and self-improvement.

Diving into the crux of the matter, the term ‘shopping addiction’ typically encompasses a compulsive urge to purchase, often accompanied by a constant preoccupation with shopping. However, from your description, it seems the core issue might not be shopping addiction per se. Instead, it appears more rooted in a cycle triggered by anxiety related to bills and the subsequent overcompensation in payments, leading to financial strain.

Anxiety-driven behaviors, coupled with potential ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and challenges with executive functioning, can indeed contribute to such financial patterns. It’s a tough cycle, and I empathize deeply.

The modern world is characterized by mounting expenses and pressures stemming from capitalist dynamics. Even professionals with a stable income sometimes grapple with financial stresses. You’re not alone in this struggle, and it’s essential to recognize the broader context of societal pressures.

Let’s explore some actionable steps:

  1. Budgeting: A foundational step in regaining financial control. Consider leveraging budgeting apps or websites to track your monthly income and expenses. If tech isn’t your thing, consider seeking help from a financial advisor or even a savvy friend.
  2. ADHD and Planning: ADHD can sometimes lead to impulsive behaviors. Given this, it might be beneficial to allocate specific times each month, before getting paid, to assess and plan your budget. This proactive approach can help curb anxiety-driven financial decisions.
  3. Autopay and Bill Management: Using autopay for recurring bills can minimize the stress around due dates. If you’re concerned about the timing of withdrawals, check if there’s flexibility in setting your preferred dates.
  4. Pause Before Purchasing: If impulse purchases are a concern, consider implementing a waiting period proportional to the item’s cost. This can offer a buffer, allowing emotions to settle and fostering more considered decisions.
  5. Limit Shopping Channels: Limiting exposure to frequent shopping avenues, like removing shopping apps or not saving passwords on shopping sites, can add an additional step before purchases, potentially curbing impulsive buys.
  6. Seek Accountability: Sharing your financial goals with trusted individuals can provide a layer of accountability. Online communities or support groups focused on financial well-being might also offer insights and camaraderie.
  7. Journaling and Self-Reflection: Documenting your spending patterns can shed light on triggers, helping in preemptively addressing them. Recognizing patterns can be a game-changer.
  8. Deep-seated Financial Beliefs: Sometimes, our financial behaviors stem from deeper, perhaps childhood-based, beliefs around money. If you sense this might be the case, consider exploring these patterns with a therapist.
  9. Holistic Financial Health: Remember, the goal isn’t to curtail spending entirely, but to foster a balanced and sustainable financial approach. With a structured budget, you might find opportunities for occasional treats without jeopardizing your overall financial health.

In conclusion, while the journey to financial equilibrium might seem daunting, remember that every small step counts. Your self-awareness is already a significant first stride. Wishing you all the best in your journey towards balanced financial well-being!

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