Shopping Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help

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Do you find it impossible to pass on a sale? Maybe you make increasingly frequent trips to the local mall by yourself or every Target employee knows you by name and lights up when you walk through the doors.

If any of this sounds familiar, you could be facing a shopping addiction.

Don’t worry! You’re not the only one who craves the euphoric satisfaction that comes with shopping.

Shopping is an enjoyable activity, but when it crosses into an insatiable obsession it can wreak havoc on your life. Fortunately, there’s a solution to putting your compulsive shopping habits in check.

What is a Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction, or compulsive buying disorder, is a common type of addiction. It’s grouped with other behaviorally based addictions that use habitual actions to alleviate negative feelings, like sadness, stress, or distress.

For example, you encounter an especially difficult day at work, so you turn to shopping as a source of relief. It might start with a weekly visit to the store but eventually evolves into many visits each week.

Shopping online might be less noticeable, but your bank statement and excessive deliveries will still tell the tale.

Do Shopping Addiction Urges Go Away?

No, shopping addiction urges never go away. However, with proper support and treatment, you can learn how to manage those impulses and embrace healthier outlets.

You have to seek and get help after you admit you have a problem. There are support groups for help you can join. Knowing you’re not alone when facing addiction can be helpful for recovery.

Aside from seeking professional treatment, there are steps you can take to curb your spending and relearn healthy habits.

  • Lock your credit cards and destroy them so you can only use cash or check.
  • Avoid online shopping sites and channels.
  • Find a constructive outlet to adopt when you feel the urge to shop.
  • Make it tougher to access your money for spending.
  • Create shopping lists for every necessary trip you need to make. Don’t deviate from the list to retrain your mind to only spend on necessities.

While it can be painful or embarrassing initially, enlisting support from family and friends can make a huge difference.

Forms of Shopping Addiction

Several forms of shopping addiction exist, though many people might be a combination of two or more.

  • Emotional Distress Shoppers seek to escape feelings of distress, anxiety, or disappointment.
  • Bargain Shoppers thrive on the excitement of landing discounts and finding good deals, even if they don’t need the items.
  • Trophy Shoppers seek validation through their purchases. They believe that buying an object will solve a problem, so they become obsessive in tracking it down.
  • Collectors often have some hoarding tendencies as they establish several collections and seek out every size, shape, color and style of the item. It’s not uncommon to have more than one collection.

All of these versions represent endless cycles where the individual cannot break free of the loop. Like other addictions, all three types escalate to meet the individual’s needs.

Shopping Addiction Statistics

You can feel comfort in the fact that you’re not alone in this struggle; here are a few statistics on shopping addictions:

  • Only 6% of the US population has a shopping addiction.
  • 68% of people with a shopping addiction reported personal relationships suffered.
  • 80-90% of people with compulsive buying disorder are women.
  • Shopping addiction in university students was higher than in any other age by 8.3%.
  • Shopping addiction or Compulsive Buying Disorder can run in families.

What are the Signs of a Shopping Addiction?

How do you tell the difference between loving to shop and dealing with an addiction? There are signs of shopping addiction that can help you determine if you or a loved one has crossed the line.

Compulsive and Chronic Shopping

One of the primary symptoms of shopping addiction comes down to frequency and volume.

 

  • Buying things you don’t need, like an outdoor fountain when you don’t have a yard.
  • Purchasing multiples of the same item, like ten pairs of identical shoes.
  • Overspending every time you go to a store.

You might even forget about the items purchased on a shopping trip, suggesting you didn’t pay attention to what you bought as much as the feeling of making a purchase.

Ignoring Your Financials

Do you immediately agree when a sales associate offers a store credit card? Maybe you have a card for every store you frequent but have no clue what your balance is on any of them.

Avoiding your financial statements is another key sign and one of the most detrimental to your long-term stability. You could be wrecking your credit score, which will create a plethora of issues down the road.

You Lie About and Hide Purchases

Stashing your new items in secret spots is one way to hide how much you spent. It often disguises feelings of shame or guilt for purchasing the items.

Even worse, if somebody asks how much you spent on something, you might downplay the actual amount.

Damaged Relationships

As a shopping addiction worsens, it’s easy to neglect loved ones to feed the impulse to shop. They might comment on your absence or ask why you don’t invite them to shop.

Types of Unhealthy Shopping Behavior

The above signs might not be easy to identify, especially if you have an adept addict who knows how to manage others and keep things hidden. You might need to look toward specific behaviors to identify the problem.

  • You spend any free time shopping online or in person. Even if you don’t always buy something, the unhealthy obsession can evolve if you don’t find other ways to occupy free time.
  • You shop whenever you’re sad, mad, or having poor feelings. It can be hard to recognize at first because there’s nothing wrong with a little self-care. When it builds to the point that shopping is your only coping mechanism, it becomes a problem.
  • You still buy things when you can’t afford them. Repeated purchases with a credit card and neglecting payments show a shopping addiction.

If you question your actions and accountability when it comes to shopping, it’s better to be proactive and address the issue head on. Ask a loved one about your behavior to see if you’re heading to the danger zone with shopping addiction.

What Is the Main Cause of Shopping Addiction?

Experts can’t seem to agree on the main cause of shopping addictions because they present differently for everyone. Most compulsive shopping traces back to a few key issues:

  • Anxiety, stress, and depression make somebody feel low, but the purchase can give them a brief high.
  • Intense shyness that makes online shopping a respite from the world but allows them to feel a part of things.
  • An addiction to the internet can trigger a shopping addiction, though in these cases it’s about the virtual experience and adding value to their online persona.
  • Weak willpower vs. aggressive marketing tactics makes it difficult for some people to avoid overspending. It’s also a trigger for deal-hunters.

Additionally, people with other mental conditions that entail compulsivity or impulsivity tend to develop addictions as a dual diagnosis. For example, somebody might have obsessive-compulsive disorder and develop a shopping addiction, which could evolve into a hoarding situation.

How a Shopping Addiction Affects the Brain

Shopping addictions change our brain’s communication patterns to rely on dopamine and the euphoric feelings tied to buying something. Soon, we become dependent on those feelings and don’t know how to find them anywhere else.

After feeling guilty, we make ourselves feel better, then we shop again.

What is the Personality of a Shopping Addict?

A shopping addict may exhibit the following personality traits:

  • Depression
  • Constant mood changes
  • Low-self esteem
  • An obsession with the latest fads, always wanting to be ‘on trend’

Is Shopping Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Shopping addiction is not currently listed as an official mental health disorder but it is not a new concept in the world of psychiatry.

A German psychiatrist identified the condition during the early 1900s and named it oniomania. The term stems from the Greek words “onios” and “mania,” which literally means insanity for sales.

Future behavioral scientists lumped shopping addiction with a range of other impulse control conditions. They noticed a trend to engage in these behaviors without control and an inability to realize what we’re doing until it’s too late.

Many mental health experts will treat shopping addiction because at the root, it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism that distracts from negative feelings. It can also be a sign of another undiagnosed pre-existing mental illness, typically revolving around compulsive or impulsive behaviors.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Shopping Addiction?

The following mental illnesses trigger shopping addiction:

  • Anxiety Disorders: Those with anxiety disorders may feel their symptoms lessen when shopping.
  • Eating Disorders: Someone with an eating disorder may seek shopping as a distraction. They can escape the anxiety and guilt over food or obsess over buying certain foods or weight loss solutions.
  • Impulse Control Disorders: Shopping addictions breed out of compulsive and impulsive behaviors.
  • Mood Disorders: Like engaging in drugs or alcohol, a shopping addiction can help our mood. Shopping keeps the negative feelings at bay until there’s an inevitable drop.

How Do I Stop My Shopping Addiction?

Acknowledging your shopping addiction is the first step in overcoming it. Once you recognize the problem, it’s possible to pinpoint and neutralize the precipitating factors driving your habits.

Can Shopping Addicts Ever Be Cured?

No, you cannot cure a shopping addiction because there is always a fear of relapse with any addiction. With hard work you can learn to manage your impulses and find balance again.

The hardest part of it is being honest with yourself. Admitting you have a problem and need help can be challenging to swallow. After you take that step, you can find comfort in seeing a change in recovery.

What is the Most Common Treatment for Shopping Addiction?

The most common treatment for shopping addiction is shopping-related therapy. It might involve solo sessions with a qualified therapist and participating in a support group.

Therapy with a qualified professional provides individualized support and the therapist can identify comorbidities, like anxiety.

Participating in a support group can also be immensely beneficial. Interacting with individuals facing the same struggles can help you gain insight into your condition.

Additionally, you should tell your friends and family about your addiction. They can support you through everything and help you create a recovery plan.

What Can I Replace Shopping Addiction With?

One of the steps in recovery is finding other ways to cope with negative feelings. Healthy coping mechanisms can include any number of new ventures.

  • Pursuing a new hobby or taking up something you used to love, like painting or gardening.
  • Exercising can fill the time in your days and is a healthy replacement that releases endorphins which can boost your confidence.
  • Spend time with friends and family doing quality activities, like movies or a casual sport.
  • Journaling or writing down your feelings can help you work on managing your urges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still hold questions regarding shopping addiction? We have collected frequently asked questions to help you better understand this contemporary concern.

Is a shopping addiction a real addiction?

Shopping addiction is a real addiction. Though there is not an official diagnosis for shopping addiction, mental health professionals have a name for it and have been treating the condition for over a century.

Therapists specialize in treating the condition and support groups even exist to help those suffering from shopping addiction.

Can a shopping addiction lead to hoarding?

A shopping addiction can lead to hoarding in some cases. While shopping behaviors can vary from person to person, the underlying compulsion can easily align with the hoarding mentality.

Shopping addicts most at risk for evolving into hoarders are the trophy shoppers and collectors. Internet shoppers can also overwhelm their space with purchases because they lose track of how much they buy until it’s delivered. By then, it can be too overwhelming.

Additional Addictions to Be Aware Of

Like shopping addictions, these behaviors can have similar destructive impacts on our lives and result from many of the same underlying triggers:

  • Gambling Addiction: when participants can’t stop gambling. Wherever they are, gamblers are always attracted to placing bets. They have intense highs when they win and devastating losses when they lose. They are incapable of stopping. Gambling can be a detrimental addiction with many consequences, including financial ruin.
  • Dopamine Addiction: This chemical handles our positive feelings like happiness and joy. Sometimes to achieve these feelings, we embrace unhealthy substances.
  • Subscription Addiction: where subscribing to things like magazines brings temporary joy. As new items arrive every week or month, it feeds the addiction and encourages more subscriptions to meet the individual’s needs.

Wrapping Up

Shopping addiction can be a horrible experience that wrecks your life, from financial stability to interpersonal relationships. You can learn to manage your impulses and you don’t have to do it alone.

Recovery from a shopping addiction is possible. It’s achieved the sooner you decide to seek help. Treating yourself with love and respect during recovery will leave you in a better place.

If you recognize any of the troubling signs in your or a friend’s behavior, speak up.

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