Minimalism influencers »recovering« from shopping »addiction« for clicks

In one of my videos, I took the term »relapse« to describe the ups and downs of minimalism in my life—for lack of a better word. But it felt wrong instantly. However, I do think that this can be a good opportunity to discuss how often medical terms are misused today, especially in the self-help bubble. And also: If you do have a better word, please suggest it to me, as I am not a native speaker and grateful for the help!

The problematic use of terms such as »addiction« and »relapse« in the context of minimalism content

I find it pretty odd, to say the least, when minimalism influencers use the term »addiction« to describe their former bad but most likely hardly compulsive shopping habits. First of all, addiction is not the same as compulsion, and secondly, medical terms are not colloquial terms, free to be used by any non-professional who wants to give some fake depth and severity of their minor everyday struggles.

I definitely don’t want to line up with that crowd. I am not trying to compare addiction and bad shopping habits at all, but that does not mean that you don’t have an issue or might need professional help, if you are struggling with your life in general. You deserve help if you feel like you would benefit from it. But this does absolutely not make it necessary to »diagnose« yourself with some medically incorrect buzzword.

Most »struggles« influencers portray to you are clickbait anyway

Most of the time, I believe that influencers are exaggerating anyway, not to say: lying. What do you think gets more clicks as the title of a YouTube video:

  • Recovering from shopping addiction: How I overcame consumerist patterns – or:
  • Overcoming my bad shopping habits: How I dealt with my everyday struggles


I personally would love to change that last one into the more explicit version of »Overcoming my bad shopping habits: How I dealt with my stupid and wasteful behavior, which I had full control over at any time, because I am definitely not a real addict who needs drugs* just to get out of bed«.

Yes. It is just that ridiculous to me. It itches me when some twenty-something who has never seen what a patient with withdrawal symptoms looks like, starts talking about their »struggles«, which to me, are at the lower end of mediocrity, worth being called »inconveniences« if I am being fair. But I guess, this kind of thing just makes for great YouTube content…

Struggling with ≠ suffering from

So I would like to pose a contrast to this new trend of over-simplifying and using medical terms to point out that you’re going through something. Terms like trauma, crisis, addiction and OCD are well-defined terms that were created by medical professionals for use in the medical field. Not for influencers to be misused as clickbait. Also, even if terms such as compulsive buying disorder exist in some medical publication that you can google, it does not mean that those are well-established (and frequently used) terms in clinical day-to-day practice, or that they should be used lightly, especially if there is a better terminus. In fact, this example is probably a pretty rare thing to be found in a chart (as compared to OCD or some other umbrella term).

Medical diagnoses are not at all made so that you as a patient can identify with them and find yourself in them. They are made so that medical professionals know what they deal with and how to design your treatment. They are in fact not made for the patient but for the one working on the patient. And they are not a label to use whenever you feel that you need to fit in somewhere and that you deserve a reason for why you feel bad.

Moreover, I am saying that most likely the majority of influencers doesn’t even have clinical intervention-worthy mental health issues, but are using those terms knowing they get more clicks. So, if a subject seems exaggerated into something oddly over the top to you… it probably is. What (from my experience and discussions with experienced people in the field) is observed in the clinical environment in contrast to how influencers stripping naked in front of the camera, being “vulnerable”, is more that patients do in fact not share their problems but keep them to themselves. Until it’s too late for low level therapy and clinical intervention becomes necessary. They don’t share it with a therapist, not with relatives, let alone the public. That is precisely why I see all of this from a very critical perspective. (Also, I’m just not the biased fan-girl type). And so should you.

I also think that it is totally disrespectful to call some mild occasional case of »shopping too much« a disorder or even an addiction*. And it is even more disrespectful to claim that you »can’t compare« these things (comparing as in outlining the qualitative difference and not as in making it the same thing). Yes, you can. And you have to. Because things need to be put in perspective. And it is healthy and sane to do so. It is weird at best if you treat some everyday problem just like a chronic illness (such as substance* abuse), an illness a lot of people factually die from, and even call it the same name.

Being honest about your mundane and boring problems won’t make you famous but it definitely makes you a better person

What does being authentic get you on social media? Yes, probably not so many clicks. But you stay true to yourself. You stay yourself. And most of all, you don’t get caught in a carousel of lies like so many. So many people that share their »healing process« or some »deep life struggle«. There is simple no coming back from that. Even if they un-woke themselves from their over-complicated ideological epiphany, their audience will not get it. If you use these terms all the time, people will take it serious and it will get normalized. So it takes way more strength to put up with misconceptions you have created and nurtured than avoiding these misunderstandings in the first place. This is why I wrote this lengthy statement.


Annotation 1: I am aware that not all addictions include substances. That was not the point. I am just pretty certain that most influencers who use the term »shopping addiction« have in fact never dealt with compulsive buying disorder either. That would be the acceptable diagnosis, but it also doesn’t align with not “occasionally buying a bit too much”. I think that most of them have in fact never been diagnosed with anything like this.—Because if they had, you can be sure they would have shared that piece of information in every single video along with their adorable little vulnerability show.

No, I don’t believe that the average twenty-something minimalism influencer who “recovered from shopping addiction” did almost go bankrupt because they went on buying binges for days. Their lives did at no point become unmanageable because of their addiction-like (still not the same) compulsory behavior. And they didn’t lose contact to friends and family because they were so deep in it that they were pushing everyone away. People who go through this kind of thing would either disclose it to be fully understood, or they would not share it because it is such a shameful experience. But just dropping a buzzword and saying you had this or that, that’s just a huge red flag and proves nothing.

Annotation 2: I did not include any bigger influencers here because firstly, the one I am thinking about only used this term twice in older videos and doesn’t anymore. I also like her content and don’t think that she is, well… »super problematic«, just a bit too spiritual for my taste maybe… but still not a problematic influencer overall. Secondly, it doesn’t really add to my point, because it is just the general problem and not a specific person I have a problem with. I don’t want to make some ad hominem argument here.

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