Shopping addiction is a disorder in which an individual engages in a pattern of chronic, repetitive purchasing and shopping. The person can’t stop regardless of negative consequences. Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is the term used by the American Psychiatric Association.
Some of us may think it’s merely irresponsibility with finances or lack of maturity. Also, some people believe a person can change his or her behavior. However, this damaging disorder is centered around the process of spending. It’s a ritual and the addict does not have control over it.
Compulsive shopping requires treatment, just as any other addiction or impulse control disorder. It’s similar to pathological gambling (gambling addiction).
Who is at Risk for Shopping Addiction?
Shopping is a part of life for most people whether it is in a store or online. For many, shopping is a pleasurable activity. A new shirt or dress, a fun trinket, colorful accessories, or new shoes can give any person a sense of reward. Humans experience a natural high when a reward is received. But, for some people, the pursuit of that reward can become compulsive and dangerous. Just as addiction to drugs and other behaviors, shopping addiction drives one to seek out the reward or “high.”
Approximately 6% of the American population is thought to have a shopping addiction. In fact, it usually begins in the late teenage years, and into the early twenties. This is an essential time in one’s life. For instance, in their late teens and early twenties most people begin to get credit cards, open bank accounts, and are mostly independent of their parents for the first time. A young person’s first credit card, or opportunity to spend for him or herself can be an exciting time. But, compulsive shopping can develop within this time frame.
Shopping Addiction and Mental Health Disorders
Spending money to get a reward of something new causes a release of dopamine in the brain. The rush of dopamine leads to a “high,” which is extremely mild for most people. Nonetheless, this rush of pleasure experienced by one who has just completed a purchase can be overwhelming.
Some mental health concerns may be more severe than others. But, anything from overly high expectations of oneself to bipolar disorder and other impulse control disorders may lead to and exacerbate, shopping addiction.
Escape From Reality
The fact is that almost anyone could potentially become addicted to shopping. After all, shopping is a pleasurable experience. Plus, there is a definite reward associated with the experience of spending money. For those addicted to shopping, this process serves as an escape from reality, relief from other disorders, or in conjunction with co-occurring disorders.
Whatever fuels shopping problems, serious negative consequences are inherent to the problem.
Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction
Like addictions of any kind, there are several warning signs and symptoms of problematic behaviors. There is an essential distinction between a shopping splurge and a shopping addiction, and the two should not be confused.
A shopping splurge is occasional and only occurs rarely, such as around the holidays, birthdays, or other special times. Sometimes, a shopping splurge may happen for no good reason. But, it is not compulsive shopping that occurs on a daily or frequent basis, continuing despite adverse consequences.
- Consistent overspending: Occasionally, some people go shopping and spend more than initially intended.
- Denial of spending: The person lies about the amount of money spent and becomes angered when confronted about it.
- Emotional spending: A person spends money when feeling sad, angry, depressed, anxious, or bored.
- Preoccupation with shopping: Continually thinking about shopping, planning the next shopping venture, and reliving a previous shopping experience are all examples of concern with the behavior.
- Guilt and shame about shopping and spending: After shopping and spending money, if feelings of guilt and shame always follow, they point to a shopping addiction.
- Damaged relationships: If shopping and spending are placing a strain on a personal relationship, whether it is with a significant other, friends, or family, there is likely a problem present. If shopping and spending continue despite these problems, shopping addiction is almost certainly afoot.
- Compulsive spending: If there is a pattern of intention to purchase a shirt, but instead, the result is spending excessive money on that shirt in every color and variation, this is a symptom inherent to shopping addiction.
Many of these signs and symptoms of shopping addiction are similar to drug, alcohol, and behavioral addictions.
Four Phases of Shopping Addiction
According to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institute of Health, this addiction process involves four phases.
These four phases are:
- Anticipation: The individual develops preoccupations and urges with a particular item.
- Preparation: A person prepares for his or her shopping expedition. This may include specific places to shop, what to wear, and what method(s) of payment to use.
- Shopping: The individual engages in shopping for a particular item, or for several unintended items. It is exhilarating, and for some, sexual.
- Spending: The financial transaction takes place and completes the experience. Once completed, there is often a feeling of disappointment with oneself. This can lead to depression, self-criticism, and anger.
Shopping Addiction Can Be Helped
Understanding that like any potentially addictive behavior, shopping addiction is dangerous. It destroys lives and relationships when left untreated. Recognizing a shopping addict is difficult initially. But time will show his or her true difficulties. Those difficulties include controlling urges, obsessions, and compulsiveness associated with shopping and spending.
Shopping addiction help is available to restore healthy and normal patterns of shopping.
A Forever Recovery Understands the Intricacies of Shopping Addiction
At A Forever Recovery, we understand the difficulties one can experience with an out of control addiction. This is why we work with each to get to the cause of his or her problems and address them. This clears the path to recovery and significantly decreases the risks of relapse and the introduction of other destructive behavior.
We work on an open-ended basis to ensure that each person has accomplished the goals necessary for healthy survival after leaving treatment. Shopping addiction and its underlying causes can be overcome. Call us now to find out how.
- psychologytoday.com – Compulsive Buying Disorder