THE BLOG

Are You A Shopaholic or Is It Parkinson's?

03/07/2014 11:36 BST | Updated 01/09/2014 10:59 BST

My husband really lucked out in one respect when we married, for he never had to worry about me over using his credit card on big spending sprees. I never enjoyed shopping and quite frankly found it a chore, culminating in me often wearing the same old outfits year in year out. My husband tried in vein to get one of my girlfriends to take me shopping, and told me to go buy myself some new clothes. We spent a long exhausting day going in and out of shops, but nothing caught my eye, except for the slight irritation in my friend's face, now sympathising with my husband, fully understanding why I never wore anything new. We started to make our way back to the car, and on display in a shop window, was a smart grey and black man's sweater. "That would look lovely on my husband" I told my friend, who had now given up hope of ever transforming my tired old wardrobe. With little enthusiasm she accompanied me into the shop, and I purchased the only item I returned home with that day. My husband looked mystified as I walked in holding one solitary carrier bag from a men's shop and handed it to him. "You couldn't find a single item for yourself?" he asked in an exasperated voice. Little did he know in a few years, all that would change, being diagnosed with Parkinson's.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a side effect some patients experience when taking certain Parkinson's medications. On the slip of paper inside the box of pills, that so many fail to read, it clearly warns the patient of possible urges to gamble, unusual heightened sexual interest and lastly, bouts of excessive shopping, making the statement "shop till you drop" a reality! I'm glad to say that gambling has never enticed me in the slightest, so no worries there. As for an insatiable appetite (and I'm not talking about chocolate éclairs), I have a husband I adore, so my eyes would never wander, which leaves only the last option: "shopping"!

Knowing how I detest shopping, I found it most curious that all of a sudden I was irresistibly drawn to shops, and anything bright, shiny or pretty would catch my attention. I began to buy the odd item of clothing, followed shortly by accessories; shoes and bags. It was so completely out of character, that it didn't take my husband long who was mildly amused at this complete change in his wife, or my daughter who thought I'd magically transformed into the perfect mother enthusiastically willing to shop at a moment's notice, and even I realised something wasn't right. Thankfully we noticed pretty quickly what was going on, and I pulled in the reigns, aware that these extreme shopping urges were in fact a side effect of one of the Parkinson's medication.

There are many terrible things one can say about living with Parkinson's and the horrific symptoms and strange side effects are normally debilitating and most unpleasant. So imagine my surprise to find a side effect that turned me from a woman who loathed shopping, and would barely spend any money on herself, to someone who could, if allowed, easily buy a new outfit and enjoy shopping like most other women. Getting me to wander around a shopping mall was laborious before, but thanks to Parkinson's, now going into shops, is a totally different experience, an exciting and thrilling outing. Should I arrive home with a new dress, and my husband raises an eyebrow, I just say, "It's not me, it's Parkinson's". If the following week I buy a pair of shoes to match the new dress, well..."It's the side effects of the tablets, not me!" I've discovered there's always a bright side to everything, no matter how dark things appear, it's how you see your life and having the ability to look at the glass half full. I embrace this unusual side effect of my Parkinson's medication, for it has literally given me a prescription to go shopping, and I now have a great wardrobe!

However, on a serious note, if you have Parkinson's or are a caregiver, and odd traits are being displayed - do pay heed. I have written about my personal experience in jest, but gambling, increased sexuality or as in my case, excessive shopping, can become a very serious problem if overlooked or ignored. Seek immediate advice from your doctor, for if left unattended, can escalate and there are documented cases where these unusual side effects have literally destroyed happy families and left them in financial ruin.

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