Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 25, Tuesday June 24, 2008



Q. I am a shopaholic, which makes me eternally broke. I am constantly doing free lancing to make my ends meet. Here my ends mean my shopping cravings. One thing I make sure that I am never in debt, or never do my stuff with family money or family fund. In those regards I am extremely conscious.

What bugs me that no matter how much I earn personally I am always broke. My husband is extremely caring and never bothers to ask me what I do with my earnings. Right now I have no moonlighting job but I have so many things I want. Knowing that these material things actually have no meaning but still my shopping spree cannot be stopped. As a result currently I am depressed for last one month. Please can you write any suggestion for me, my cranky mood is affecting my family life. I love my husband and daughter dearly but they cannot, which is obvious, understand my need to buy. Frankly speaking neither do I. What's wrong with me?

Ans: Enjoying shopping is a common thing, which is different from being shopaholic. A shopaholic is a person who shops to “feel better” or to “change the mood”. They do it impulsively and suffer from guilt and shame afterwards for spending money on unnecessary products. The way you have portrayed yourself; it seems that you are very aware of the addictive nature of your shopping behaviour. Fortunately, this self-awareness will be the main tool in your pursuit to recover from this dysfunctional behaviour.

You are also aware that it is not yet a full blown psychiatric condition with lots of adverse consequences. However, as a smart person, you would rather like to nip it in the bud and set yourself free before it is too late. I understand that your shopping spree is getting out of control and you suffer from cranky mood as well as depression when you can't shop. Negative mood and shopping (to shift the mood) can form a vicious cycle and is hard to break this cycle without proper intervention. Treating the Depression in a scientific way is a better choice than self-medicating it with excessive shopping. I believe few therapy sessions with a psychologist or antidepressant (if indicated) would bring much better result in this case.

You have mentioned that you don't have a moonlighting job right now- this can be perceived as a stressful situation resulting in many mixed emotions. People who derive most of their sense of self-worth from the work they do are particularly at risk of depression when they lose their job. Here job is not just the source of money; it rather gives a person his/her identity and purpose of life. Lacking an appropriate job can lead to a sense of insecurity, fear of future and apprehensiveness may prevail. Some people are extremely uncomfortable with these negative feelings and tend to engage them in some kind of “doing” to avoid feeling the feelings. This distraction then becomes a coping mechanism. Solution oriented therapy teaches people how to face a real life problem without getting totally consumed by emotions. Besides, if you learn to own your feelings you won't displace it inappropriately on others (husband and children) who don't deserve it.

Your husband is caring enough and doesn't depend on your earning. Make best use of this situation. Invest your self-esteem in your motherhood and in your skill as a homemaker. You don't NEED to buy always, you actually WANT to buy. Make a list of the things you really want and go through it with a friend and pick one thing at a time that is affordable from family fund. Modern society puts lot of pressure on women, expect them to be superhuman! Learn to shrug off some of these pressures by appreciating the gifts of life. Look for an appropriate job and at the same time try to enjoy your family life to its fullest. Avoid going to stores where you tend to spend most money, avoid carrying extra money in your purse and look at your bank statement from time to time to remind yourself of your financial status. Divide your leisure time between physical activity, recreational activity and spiritual work in a balanced way.

Dear Dr. Khan,
I am 49 years old. My teeth are gradually becoming bigger in size. On consultation, a dentist told me that it is because of gum recession. Would you kindly explain what is gum recession and its possible prevention or cure?
Hasmot Ali

Dear Mr. Ali,
Gum recession occurs when the underlying bone melts away. There are several reasons for this, depending on the patient's age and condition. Many attribute this problem with brushing too hard. However, many patients with this problem never pick up a toothbrush. Almost all toothbrush manufacturers make soft bristle brushes to avoid abrasion. As observed in young people, receding gums are most often caused by tooth grinding.
The most common reason for gum recession is gum disease. Gum disease usually strikes patients over the age of thirty and destroys the bone around the teeth. Eventually the diseased teeth become loose and their bone is lost rapidly. The recession becomes more obvious.
An older person who makes less saliva often complains of a dry mouth. The exposed root surfaces are at risk of getting a special type of tooth decay called root caries. Some diseases and nutritional deficiencies can contribute to this problem. Diabetics tend to have more gum problems. Vitamin C and calcium deficiencies can also contribute and in rare cases, trauma can be a cause.
Gum recession looks terrible and it's difficult to correct. Most often gum grafting is performed but because there is no underlying healthy bone, the results may not be lasting. The best way to handle it is to prevent the problem by visiting the dentist regularly.

Dear Dr. Khan,
I have cavity in my posterior tooth. I did amalgam filling twice but its not working properly. It seems dislodged and broken. My dentist suggested dental cap. What is your opinion? Is there any other alternative treatment?
Thanking you.

Dear Mr. Akbar,
I think you can go for inlay (laboratory based filling) instead of cap. Inlay is a relatively new and very effecting filling. Normal amalgam filling contains mercury, but inlay contains no mercury but a biocompatible and friendly material for the oral environment. For inlay preparation we do not need to reduce the tooth structure, only measurement of cavity with minimum adjustments suffice.

Under a different sky


They say 40 is the new 20, and age is just a number. And you realise when you start talking like that, age is getting to you and you want to be 20 again. Even if you don't have wrinkles yet, or grey hair, age still caresses your mind, stands bold and strong on your driving license, your passport and every time you fill out an application.

And then you think less practically and you start thinking philosophically, because apparently with age we get more insightful. And then you think of growth. Growth of our mind, growth of our body, expansion of our soul and wonder what went right and what went wrong and what can't be changed.

And you wonder, what constitutes growth...is it being on a diet or getting off one? Is it running a marathon or not running at all…is it learning something new or practicing what you knew over and over again till you get better at it? Is it realising you don't want children even if you love them or you want at least five even if you can't afford to raise them?

Is it waking up early in the morning to do yoga or sleeping in so you are never sleep-deprived. Is it learning a new language or forgetting the one you knew? Is it wearing less clothes or more, is it only looking at the mirror twice a day instead of catching a glimpse of yourself wherever you can, mirrors, store fronts, large green lakes?

Is it becoming cynical and becoming definite, or becoming more hopeful and unapparent? Is it shopping less or spending more? Is it calculating retirement savings or donating money? Is it finding a balance between selfish and selfless or not caring at all? Or is it just realising you are who you are and there will be no more growth to come; you have grown as much as you could…so you should make space for others.

Is growth imprinted on you through travel or is it awarded to you by spending your life in the same city and never leaving your own? Is growth measured by intelligence, the state of your bank account, your solid and liquid assets? Or is it measured by the number of romantic partners and the number of marriages or maybe the number of scars on your body?

Maybe growth can be counted in how many words you have written in your lifetime or how many you haven't. Maybe how many times you felt like bursting out in anger or into a song, or listened to someone tell you a story. Maybe it's how many rivers you crossed, how many oceans you swam in or the desert and its the cacti you posed next to for photos, maybe growth came when you looked back at them.

And what is it supposed to feel like, growth, painful, joyful, tingly? Do we know when it happens, it can't be measured on your dining room wall with pencil marks, 4'2, 4'11, 5'4, then how? Is being on television or writing big books, understanding Tagore and Neruda at the same time? Or is it weaving crops on your father's land and resting under the shade of aged trees. Apparently growth doesn't come in numbers, letters or show up in photo frames or in the lines on your palms. I have always dreaded answering the question - what I wanted to be when I grow up…I have no good answers anymore. Thankfully they have stopped asking and I am stuck here at 5'2'' knowing less and asking more...

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Investing in stocks

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