Why Shopping With Anxiety Is Like Playing Pac-Man


Shopping with anxiety is like playing a game of Pac-Man. You’re trying to catch all of the dots before the ghosts get you!

Get Ready!

You prepare yourself for the shopping trip way before it’s time to actually go, even if it’s just to Walmart or Target. You’ve already ordered what can be ordered online, so you don’t have to go to the store at all but have come to the realization there are a few things you need to get so you get mentally prepared.

You have to decide if what you are wearing is appropriate to wear in the store but not too flashy as to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Once you have your list of things you want to get (which will be very few to avoid unnecessary time in the store), you do a mental check in your head to see if there’s anything you may be forgetting. You look at the time to make sure it’s not a “peak” shopping period, so the possibility of running into someone you know is minimal.

OK, so you have your clothes, money, shopping list (paper or phone because either can be used as a barrier or excuse not to talk to someone). Now we can drive to the store, listening to whatever theme song of the day to pump you up or calm you down to get in and out of the store at record time.

Starting the Game

So, you have arrived at the store and are now racing to get all of the dots before the “ghosts” see you. Your feet might as well be roller skates because you’re walking so fast. Even if you see someone in the parking lot, they’ll see how fast you’re walking so they should know you don’t have time for chitchat. You quickly grab a shopping cart, even if you won’t need it because it can be used as a barrier later.

You walk into the store and scan from right to left to make sure you don’t see anyone you know, and if you do, you’ll go in the opposite direction. And if you make eye contact, you’ll look at your list or look around as if you’re in another world and keeping walking away from them. Whew! They didn’t see you!

You slow down to catch your breath because your heart is beating a mile a minute, but you can’t stop walking because someone might accidentally bump into you and then you may have to talk to them! So, you pick back up the pace to continue on, ever watching for anybody that may pop up, racing through the store to pick up everything on your list as if your life depended on it.

You Spot a Ghost

You see someone you know. Ahhhhhh! Inside your head you are screaming and your palms are starting to sweat and you are quickly running possibilities through your mind on what the best course of action is because they cannot see you. The person is far off from you so you have time to run. You duck into another aisle and pretend to look at something and watch from the corner of your eye to make sure they have passed. Whew! You see them pass and you go another way to continue shopping just in case they forget something and may turn around and see you.

Almost Finished

You’ve done all of your shopping and are headed to check out. You avoid those “death traps” if at all possible — you know, the registers that have people there. You quickly scan the self check-out line to make sure there aren’t too many people over there and that there is no one you know.

When the coast is clear, you dash in and ring everything up as quickly as you can without looking up because someone may see you and you’ll have to talk. If you don’t have cash to pay, you’ll have to use your card, so you make sure your total amount due comes under $50 — anything over will require a signature and that’s more time in the store. 

If by chance you go over, you’ll quickly scribble something on the signature line so you can get out. You’ve already bagged up the items and have them loaded in the cart by the time the receipt comes out. You grab it out of the machine as quickly as you can and walk quickly, almost running as if someone was chasing you, out of the store to your vehicle, which you purposely parked as closely to the door as possible for a quick getaway.

Whew! Mission accomplished!

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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