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It’s very common for an individual to enjoy shopping and spending money. In fact, shopping is generally not a problem for most people. However, when shopping takes over one’s life and is all consuming, shopping addiction, an impulse control disorder, may be to blame.
For those who suffer from shopping addiction, over-the-limit credit card balances, past due accounts, missed work, and unpaid bills become a common occurrence as the desire to “shop till you drop” becomes an ever consuming factor in the individual’s life. Often times, the consequences of a shopping addiction don’t even sink in until everything is lost—for some, even then the addiction still makes little sense.
What is Shopping Addiction?
According to The Trustees of Indiana University, “compulsive shopping or spending can be a seasonal balm for the depression, anxiety and loneliness during the December holidays season.” Likewise, it can result from a lack of emotional support or another issue. People who suffer from shopping addiction may only have problems during the holidays or they may suffer from a compulsive desire and uncontrollable urge to shop all year long—regardless of when the compulsive behaviors set in, the addiction is very much the same.
Technically, shopping addiction can be referred to the medical term known as Omniomania. It includes compulsive shopping that interrupts regular lifestyle routines or happiness. While consumerism is very proud of people who shop and spend money in America, for those who suffer from a compulsive desire to shop, the happiness that comes from spending money is taken over by regret, guilt and displeasure.
How Shopping Addiction Affects the Individual
Shopping compulsively can have an array of negative effects on the individual who suffers from the problem. Financial struggles are often a problem for people suffering from this impulse control disorder and the emotional stress that comes from being unable to control spending can be unbearable.
The effects of shopping addiction may include:
- Depression that results from a lack of money to shop or from spending money that places other bills or financial responsibilities in jeopardy.
- Anxiety that results from overspending or not having enough money to spend.
- Guilt that results from the lack of thought in shopping or the overspending that takes place.
- Lowered self-esteem that results from feeling guilty and upset about spending.
- Problems with relationships that result from the financial burden that comes with overspending.
Often times, people who suffer from shopping addiction will hoard items. They will spend money on items that are worthless or useless to them and then store them in their homes or in other places. In time, this compulsive shopping results in hundreds or even thousands of items being purchased and often never even being used. Home space fills up, purchased items are quickly overseen and the desire to purchase more items takes over—thus the cycle of shopping addiction continues.
Signs of Shopping Addiction
What is it that makes you a compulsive shopper and not just “someone who likes to shop?” Is it the spending? Is it the method of spending?
According to Indiana University, “shopaholics, when they are feeling “out of sorts,” shop for a “pick-me-up.” They will go out and buy items or spend money just for the sake of the rush that they feel when they take part in such behavior. They generally don’t need the items that they purchase, they may never touch the items that they purchase and they often had no desire to purchase the item before the impulsive desire to do so quickly popped up.
The following signs may signify a shopping addiction:
- Making purchases on a whim
- Compulsive spending
- Shopping everyday
- Telling lies about shopping behaviors
- Feeling guilty about shopping
- Feeling upset if you can’t shop
- Shopping despite the problems it causes financially
- Shopping despite the problems it causes in your relationship
- Realizing the consequences of shopping—and doing so anyway
Am I Addicted to Shopping?
Are you wondering if you are addicted to shopping? Do you think that your spending may be more than just a “normal” consumerism choice? If you answer yes to any of the following questions then you might be addicted to shopping:
- Do you spend money when you are mad?
- Do you spend money when you are sad?
- Do you spend money when you get into a fight with a loved one?
- Do you spend money when you are depressed?
- Do you spend money as a way of coping with emotional upset?
- Do you argue with your spouse or loved ones about your excessive spending?
- Do you spend even when you know you cannot afford to?
- Do you feel like you cannot go a single day without spending money?
- Do you feel like life is worthless without shopping?
- Do you shop while at work or when you should be taking care of other responsibilities?
- Do you feel guilty about the money that you spend?
- Do you feel like you cannot think about anything except money and shopping?
Is it a Shopping Spree?
Sometimes, people go on what is called a “shopping spree” and this is not necessarily an addiction to shopping. There are differences between shopping sprees and shopping addiction. Here’s how you can tell if the actions that you are taking part in are the result of a mostly harmless shopping spree:
- A shopping spree may result in overspending but it won’t happen over and over.
- A shopping spree doesn’t take place regularly.
- A shopping spree usually takes place when there is an important event or holiday that you care about.
- A shopping spree is not a general routine for you.
- A shopping spree may leave you feeling guilty for a short time but since it doesn’t occur again, at least not for a while, the healing process is much quicker.
- A shopping spree mostly doesn’t interrupt your regular life and does not result in any long term consequences.
Treatment for Shopping Addiction
Like other behavioral disorders or impulse control disorders, a shopping addiction can generally be treated using pharmacology, psychotherapy and behavior modification. If you think that you may be suffering from a shopping addiction, there are some steps that you can take at home to prevent the problem from worsening. According to Indiana University, you can take the following steps to prevent shopping binges from occurring:
- Do you best to avoid the stores, especially if you are upset or emotional.
- Make a shopping list at home and do not stray from the list purchasing items that are unnecessary.
- Take time to plan out purchases and always ask yourself whether a purchase is a “want” or a “need.”
- Don’t use credit cards!
- Use cash for purchases so that you tangibly understand how much money you are spending.
- If you feel like shopping, browse online or go to the mall and have a look but do not make any purchases. Leave your money at home or in your car so that you cannot impulsively spend.
- If the desire to shop comes up, try to get your mind off of it by doing something else like exercising or talking with an old friend.
- Do your best to avoid places where you know you will overspend.
- Learn how to recognize the triggers that lead you to spend more money and then do your best to avoid those triggers.
How Treatment Works
Most of the time, impulse control disorders like shopping addiction involve the following steps of treatment:
- An evaluation of the problem and a determination of the necessary actions to help the patient.
- Medical intervention as needed to ensure the safety of the patient.
- Individual therapy that aims at providing guidance, support and education to the patient.
- Group therapy that aims at helping the individual to realize that they are not alone.
- Counseling that focuses on changed behaviors and healing.
- Family education to help build a stronger, more informed support network for the individual.
- Support groups that focus on providing continued peer support that aids in long term recovery.
Recovering from Shopping Addiction
Recovery is a long, challenging and rewarding journey. Shopping addiction, like other impulse control disorders, may always be an element in the background of your life but that doesn’t mean that the condition has to rule your life. With the help of a treatment professional, you can achieve recovery from shopping addiction and set your life down a forward moving path of happiness and health.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you have a problem and need help—these are the first steps to healing. If you’re ready to get started down a path of recovery and healing, consider seeking the help of a professional right away.