Shopping is typically an enjoyable activity for most people. But there are people who make compulsive purchases regardless if they can afford it or even need the item. This compulsive shopping behavior is a mental health disorder that can seriously impact their life.
What Is Shopping Addiction?
Shopping addiction is a condition in which there is a compulsion to shop whether you need the item or have the financial means to buy it. The person has no control over how they spend their money.
The compulsion stems from the way their brain feels while shopping. They get a rush or a high when they purchase things, just as a drug addict does when they use drugs. Once the brain associates shopping with that "high," it will want to recreate it over and over again.
This condition affects about 18 million people in the United States. It can cause financial problems, relationship issues and personal anguish, shame and embarrassment. Just as with any addiction, there is no clear-cut cure, but it can be treated and managed.
Signs of Shopping Addiction
Many compulsive shoppers like to portray the image of being wealthy while they are actually deeply in debt. They also tend to hide their addiction. They'll hide their purchases, receipts, credit card bills and shopping bags. Other indications that they may have a shopping addiction is when they:
- Obsess about shopping
- Shop to cope with stress
- Shop to improve mood
- Spend more than they can afford
- Feel intense excitement after making purchases
- Max out credit cards or open new ones before paying off previous balances
- Are unable to pay their debt or manage their money
- Are unable to cut back on shopping even if they want to
- Buy unnecessary items that go unused
- Fail to stop compulsive shopping
Different Types of Shopping Addicts
With compulsive shoppers, it's all about the feeling they get when they make a purchase. That feeling can be described as a delirious euphoria. After they experience this "high" they will eventually "come down" so to speak. A feeling of guilt can overwhelm them which can then transition to anxiety or depression. In order to feel better, the compulsive shopper may resort to more shopping. It's a vicious circle of emotional shopping.
Collector shoppers don't feel complete until they have the entire set or collection of 'something'. Some examples of these collections include art, shoes and toys/figurines. The collector shopper may also feel the need to have the same shoe or purse in every color it comes in. This type of shopping can lead to hoarding and can also be a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Image shoppers tend to purchase expensive items to build up their self-esteem and/or social status. This type of shopper is usually a woman that is outgoing and attention seeking. But in reality they suffer from depression and low self-esteem and shop to help them feel better.
The codependent shoppers believe that buying extravagant gifts for family or friends will earn them approval or love. They are longing for a positive reaction to the gifts they had given.
Bargain shoppers buy things only because they are on sale. They don't need it and most likely won't use it either. Their main objective when bargain shopping is to get a good deal.
Shopping Addiction Treatment
Most times, there is an underlying emotional need such as low self-esteem that instigates the compulsive buying. Usually, therapy can help recognize that underlying issue and correlate it with the addiction to shop. Once a diagnosis is made, the patient will be able to better understand their own behavior. Treatments for shopping addiction are mainly therapy-related and can include:
This is a type of meditation used to focus on what you are feeling in the present moment with non-judgmental awareness. This includes using breathing techniques, guided imagery and other forms of relaxation techniques. This can be a very effective tool that can help with anxiety, reduce stress levels and will help improve impulse control.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
This is a popular type of therapy that is usually a weekly session with your therapist. This method of treatment will change the way the shopping addict thinks. It will actually help them stop thinking about shopping. It is a very effective form of treatment and can also help develop self-esteem.
This may be necessary to help couples work through their issues brought on by shopping addiction. It can be crucial, especially for those who are affected by the excessive spending of their partner.
Residential Treatment Centers
This is for the most serious cases of shopping addiction. The patient is in a totally controlled environment and is isolated from outside influences that could feed their addiction. The overall health of the patient is also monitored during the beginning stages of treatment.
This is a supplemental counseling option to psychotherapy. It can help get the patient back on track with their finances by paying off their debt and setting up a budget.
Outpatient Rehabs and Treatment Programs
This treatment program can be an excellent option to treat shopping addiction. You and your doctor will determine what type of treatment will be appropriate for you. The level of treatment depends on the degree of your shopping addiction and if there's an underlying mental illness. A patient typically attends daily or weekly therapy sessions.
There is no miracle pill to cure shopping addiction, but medications may be necessary during the beginning of the treatment. This will help manage the psychological effects of withdrawal from the addictive behavior. These sedatives may include Valium, Xanax, Klonopan, or Ativan. At times, the shopping addiction can be the result of an underlying condition such as depression or another mental illness that may need to be treated with medication. It has been found that anti-depressants had some success in treating compulsive shopping addiction.
There are certain preventative strategies that the patient can do on their own which include:
- Cutting up their credit cards
- Avoid stores and websites
- Make a list before going to the store and stick to it
- Shop with a supportive partner
- Block shopping sites on the internet
- Develop a new hobby
Shopping Addiction Is Serious
It is important to remember that shopping addiction is a serious, mental disorder and should not be taken lightly. It typically stems from deeper emotional or mental health conditions but with appropriate treatment and support from family and friends, a successful recovery is possible.