7 Reasons Why Shopping is Difficult For Aspies

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7 Reasons Why Shopping is Difficult for Aspies

I hate shopping.

There I said it.  I hate it. Even today where I’m guaranteed to find something in my shape and size, the thought of going to a shopping centre and browsing the shops fills me with dread and here’s why.

The reason for this is II have Aspergers Sydrome. This makes even the simplest activities difficult for many reasons.

  1. People

People.  All around. Everywhere I look.

Like many with Aspergers, I’m not very good with being touched unexpectedly and this includes random bumps and nudges from other shoppers. I have to gear myself mentally for the onslaught as, even when I go at a relatively quiet time, someone will still manage to frighten the life out of me with an unexpected bump. (Many I ask how I cope with busy corridors as a teacher, but you’d be surprised how many pupils automatically move out of the way when they see you coming!)

2. Noise

I am quite sensitive to noise, especially the unexpected kind, and shopping centres are full of random noises: security alarms, tills, tannoy announcements, children crying… well, you get the picture. When I say I’m sensitive to noise, people often assume I mean that it gives me a fright or makes me uncomfortable. It’s far worse, as the screeching of a security alarm can sound like nails being raked down a chalk-board inside my skull. It makes it virtually impossible to concentrate on anything else until it has stopped.  Sometimes I can then continue shopping and find something to try on, sometimes I have to leave. It all depends on how stressed the noise has left me. Occasionally a few minutes in a quiet place can help as well.

Not all people with Aspergers are sensitive to noise. People on the spectrum have difficulties processing sensory information.  Whilst I’m super-sensitive to noise others are UNDER-sensitive to noise. It’s one of the many things that mean every Aspie or person on the spectrum is different.

3. Lights

Surprise surprise I am sensitive to bright lights.  I know, it’s amazing I ever leave the house lol. It’s not all lights, just the really bright white overhead lights that unfortunately seem to be the ones that most high street shops use to show off their clothes. Initially it’s okay, but the longer I shop the brighter the lights seem to be and the worse my headache gets.

Just to check in here before I continue, all of these things occur before I’ve even looked at an item of clothing!

4. Fashion Style

I don’t think my style is unusual or quirky, I like to wear tunic tops, leggings and boots, but sometimes it can be a nightmare to find anything.  I can’t wear anything that touches my neck or anything that is too tight or scratchy due to my sensory issues. Whenever I wear something too tight or with too high a neckline, I spend the whole day regretting it.  The only way I can describe it is like having a stone in your shoe that you can’t remove. It’s not painful,  but you know it’s there and it makes you feel extremely uncomfortable until it’s gone!

As a teacher I can’t wear anything that is too low-cut or too short for obvious reasons. This means already, even taking into account all the different styles, my options have been limited. Now throw in the ‘seasonal fashions’ and sometimes there is literally nothing I can find to wear. I know we’ve all had the few shopping trips were we can’t find anything to wear, but depending on the style, this can last an entire season. Thank God for internet shopping is all I can say – though this has its own drawbacks which I’ll discuss in another post!

5. Changing Rooms

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brighter lights.  Unflattering mirrors.  Limited space.  As if all of these weren’t bad enough, then there is the dreaded cubicle.  Does it have a curtain?  Is it a door?  Does it have a working lock? Are there lots of other people? All of these questions are left unanswered until you walk through the door to the changing room and by then it’s too late.


Because the sales assistant is already asking you how many items you have and giving you a tag to take in with you. Now I know others are thinking ‘why don’t you just walk out then?’ but it’s not that simple. If I walk out what will the assistant think? Do I then buy the clothes without trying them on, take them home and have to face another shopping trip if they don’t fit? Either way, the result is anxiety, something which can only usually be reduced by finding clothes that fit!

6. Queues

Taking into account the lights, the noises and lots of people, then being made to stand in a queue is usually the final straw. As everything gets louder, brighter and more crowded the stress of the situation is over-whelming. I start wringing my hands and eye up the nearest exit. I’m willing the assistants to not be chatty and to serve people quickly.  On occasions when it became too much bear, I have had to abandon the clothes that took ages to find in order to retreat to the car for a breather.

7. Shop. Queue. Pay. Repeat.

Doing this in one shop is bad enough But you then have to do it again and again. Each shops with its unique blend of bright lights and strange noises. I have stopped shopping with friends where possible as I need the option to retreat to my car or drive home after only visiting 2 shops if necessary.

People often say that if you have Aspergers, that you shouldn’t avoid these situations but should keep trying.  It’s very easy to say this but if you experience this level of anxiety it can effect your entire day or week. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve returned home from a shopping trip in floods of tears, only for this to develop into a low mood which has lasted up to a week afterwards.

I would hate it if my post stopped anyone from going shopping. It’s intended to give an insight into the stresses of shopping for those who don’t have Aspergers.  If you make simple adjustments, it can be possible to have a fairly relaxed trip.  Think of the time of day, wear headphones to drown out noise and allow yourself a breather in a quiet spot if you need to.

What do you do to cope with shopping trips? I’d love to read your suggestions below.

Speak soon

Aspie Miss



  1. Daliah Lundquist

    Not to mention the over powering smells of people doused in perfumes, and the latest strongest laundry detergent and softeners

    1. rebekah

      Oh the smells! Ands most new products have smells, department stores have perfume samples, air fresheners are everywhere, food vendors…

  2. Lisa

    My daughter tries to distract herself by having conversations with us. She likes to be given a job to focus on ie (looking for specific items ). A quiet spot can work and she has her “survival pack” of ear plugs and fidget toy. She asks me to squeeze her hand hard. Alternatively my girl rocks and taps her chest.

    1. Aspie Miss (Post author)

      It’s brilliant that you have so many strategies to use with your daughter. I was often sent to ‘sit over there’ away from the hustle and bustle in shops. A lot of people with autism find comfort in pressure and weighted blankets can provide this as well. Miss x

  3. Katrina

    I find shopping totally exhausting. Noise and smell are the things that drain me. Most of the time it hits me when I exit the shop into the fresh air. Because I live 2 hrs from big shops, when we go it’s a day long expedition. I have discovered I have to leave the next day blank or I just can’t recover.

    1. Aspie Miss (Post author)

      It’s difficult isn’t it? There are certain shops I try to avoid due the perfume and make-up sections being right by the main entrance and I just become overwhelmed by the different smells. I also have asthma and then find it difficult to breathe. It’s often just easier to avoid the shop!

  4. Fiona

    Daliah brought up another good point regarding smells. I can’t stand the perfumes. I seem to smell things that others don’t. I don’t like being around people. I can engage in conversation just fine, but it’s exhausting. I’m also very sensitive to noise. Those beeping sounds in large stores drive me batty. I can usually be heard saying “make it stop, make it stop!” The worst lights for me are strobe or blinking ones. It’s really upsetting. My fashion style is comfy. Leggings, tunic tops, comfy shoes. I dint realize it until you mentioned the changing rooms, but I just don’t go in them. Standing in line? Absolutely hate anyone near me. They need to be a good 3 feet away from me or I’m just a wreck.
    Oh, you also mentioned clothing and how it fits. I can’t stand anything touching my neck. I even have to remind the hairdresser not to make the gown tight at my neck. Makes me feel like I’m choking. And let’s not even get into my sensitivity to different materials.

  5. Wendy

    Gosh! My partner has Aspergers and a lot of what you describe is very “him” but also a lot of what you describe is very “me”!!! And although my friends describe me as “eccentric” and “individual” I’ve often wondered how far on the spectrum I am… Further than I thought, it seems…! Great to read your insights, though. Thanks. Wendy.

    1. Aspie Miss (Post author)

      I’m so glad that you found it useful!

  6. pjmcbride

    I shop online, or go to smaller places (Walgreen’s instead of Walmart) when possible, and as near my home as possible, so I can quickly get away if necessary. That being said, clothes and beauty products are among my special interests, so some types of shopping have rewards built in!

  7. Chelsea

    i hate shopping. i went there with my family, lunch time in the middle of the food court, i went and ordered my kids meals but i forgot one kid. how could i forget one kid? (cause my head was screaming to get the hell out of there into some fresh air and personal space, thats why)
    so i thought i would go back and get it, half way back….nope not doing it, too many people, to many noises, it was all too much. so i walked back to my hubby and said, you have to get her lunch i cant do this.
    i would rather go hungry then line up and do all that.
    the first time i ever drove up to Mcdonalds drive through on my own was when i was 27years old, and it was a major break through for me.
    i hate with a passion when a shop person watches you and after a while they say loudly CAN I HELP YOU, do you need any help.
    i walk out every time, its just to much pressure, just let me look without being pressured please ots hard enough as it is!


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