Last updated: 11/9/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Many people who love to go to the mall often or enjoy shopping even when they don’t need anything like to joke that they are shopaholics. While the act of shopping can make a person feel good and can even be cathartic for some, shopping addiction, also called compulsive buying disorder, is a real compulsion for others, something they are seemingly unable to prevent on their own.
If you have seen your addiction to shopping cause real issues in your life, such as financial, legal, or psychological problems that you struggle with as a result of your compulsion to shop, you should consider attending shopping addiction treatment.
There are treatment facilities and programs available for this sort of issue, and it can be much more beneficial than continuing to ignore the problem. With compulsive buying disorder treatment, you can end your addiction to shopping for good.
Do I Need Shopping Addiction Treatment?
As stated, many individuals just really like to shop. They may enjoy it as a hobby or, sometimes even, as an obsession. It is important to remember that obsessions, though we may not always understand them in others, can make people happy, while addictions do not. The compulsive action of shopping involved in this disorder makes a person buy things even if they do not want to or do not have the money.
If you are wondering whether or not you may be addicted to shopping, look for these signs of compulsive shopping in your life, as stated by the URMC
- “You think more than you want to about shopping.”
- This could mean that you are in class, at work, or otherwise engaged in another activity but you are thinking about shopping instead of concentrating on your current work.
- “You prefer to shop alone to avoid embarrassment or distraction.”
- If you are constantly buying more than you need or should buy, you may feel uncomfortable doing so with other individuals. Furthermore, if you feel that other people are always a distraction to your shopping, it may be more of an anxious activity for you than a fun one.
- “You shop for longer time periods than you intended.”
- If you frequently forget how long you’ve been shopping and miss other appointments consistently because you lose track of time while shopping, you should consider treatment because this is a strong sign of addiction.
- “You buy things you don’t need or want” or always more items than you planned.
- Someone who is always buying new things that they do not need or want is a sign of compulsion that shows that you are not in control of your shopping. And if you constantly buy more than you intended to buy to the point that it affects your monetary situation, this is another bad sign.
- “You hide what you buy to avoid conflicts at home.”
- Also if you hide the debt that you are in because of your constant buying, this is another sign of addiction. Addicts can become very secretive and justify actions that they know are wrong in order to keep fueling their addiction.
If you are addicted to shopping, you might also experience “prepurchase tension or anxiety” and “a sense of relief following the purchase” (NCBI). These are the signs of addiction as opposed to enjoyment or obsession. A person who is addicted to shopping will not be able to stop this type of reckless behavior on their own.
What Does a Shopping Addiction Treatment Program Entail?
There are actually several types of shopping addiction treatment. Once you are in treatment, you will likely be given a specialized treatment program that will cater to your needs, and not just those related to your addiction. According to another study from the NCBI, “In recent years, treatment studies of [compulsive buying disorder] have focused on the use of psychotropic medication (mainly antidepressants) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).”
In some cases, antidepressants or SSRIs can be beneficial toward helping patients curb their desires to shop and their depressive symptoms which can fuel those desires. Citalopram is one antidepressant that has been used to treat shopping addiction in the past. There has also been somewhat successful research done with “naltrexone, suggesting that opiate antagonists might play a role in the treatment of CBD.”
However, the NCBI study suggests that “patients should be informed that they cannot rely on medication” solely for their treatment. Because there isn’t as clear of an assurance that medication absolutely works in order to treat individuals living with shopping addiction, one should not rely on this method for all of their treatment. In fact, in most cases of addiction, therapy and medication used together are often more effective than when they are used separately.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly used treatments for shopping addiction. According to the NIDA, CBT “was developed as a method to prevent relapse when treating problem drinking, and later it was adapted for cocaine-addicted individuals.” This type of therapy helps patients
- Explore “the positive and negative consequences” of their addiction
- Learn to self-monitor and pay more attention to their own actions
- Recognize triggers that might bring about the need to shop
- Identify problematic behavior like spending time at a mall or window shopping which can bring about the compulsive need to shop, or what is known in addiction therapy as a craving
- Learn to be more self-possessed and to change the way they think about their addiction to shopping
Also, in therapy sessions, patients might be able to discover other psychological issues that they never realized they had which may be feeding their addiction to shopping. These could include anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, or types of depression which manifest in a compulsive need to shop because is soothes these issues. While this may be true, compulsive buying is not a healthy way to deal with these problems, and you will be able to receive therapeutic treatment for them while also getting treated for your shopping addiction.
While medication can help balance your emotions and compulsive behaviors, the only way to truly change your actions is to gain a new perspective and learn to be more mindful. This is why therapy is such a large part of shopping addiction treatment.
Support Groups as Shopping Addiction Treatment
Some people may not want or need to attend formal addiction treatment for this issue. It all depends on your needs as an individual, but, if your addiction is severe, you will more than likely need some sort of treatment in order to build a solid recovery. According to the University of Indiana, “It is recommended that spending addicts seek professional counseling or a self-help group to deal with this problem.”
Support groups are a great way of treating shopping addiction. Members of these groups
- Discuss their issues, feelings, triggers, and other issues with individuals who are going through extremely similar situations
- Spend time with positive role models who are also working on their addictions, especially if the meetings are being run by a former shopping addict
- Find support and understanding for an issue that is often written off as not a real problem
- Attend meetings in locations usually near to their homes in community centers, churches, or treatment facilities and at convenient times (especially in online support groups)
- Receive largely self-based treatment at no charge
If you would feel comfortable with this type of environment, you should absolutely consider a support group for shopping addiction treatment. Group members want everyone to feel included and helped, and this type of treatment often forms tight, long-term bonds like no other.
Other Self-Treatment Tips for Shopping Addiction
Even if you do attend formal treatment or a support group, much of what you need to do to prevent relapse will be more intensely felt when you are stepping into a supermarket or at the mall with friends. There are tips that you can use to control your condition on your own, and you will learn even more of them in treatment.
- Try to pay for your purchase in cash. Especially if it is the only form of payment you bring with you, you are less likely to overspend if you take the cash that you want to use (and only that) out ahead of time.
- Distract yourself when you feel the urge to shop. Take a walk, read a book, do yoga, or call a friend.
- Make lists for yourself before you shop to limit the desire to buy more. Try to stick to the list as best as possible.
- Do not go shopping alone. Take a friend with you who knows what you are going through and who will not make you feel uncomfortable or judged if they have to tell you that you might be spending more than you should.
- “Avoid shopping after upsetting events or while you feel emotions that fuel compulsive shopping” (URMC). This is the time when you will be most likely to slip and buy things you don’t want or need. Instead, find other, healthier ways to cope with your stresses.
- Do not window shop or shop online, even if you do not have the intention of buying. At this point, these actions could be too detrimental to your recovery.
Shopping addiction treatment can be extremely necessary if your compulsive buying has gotten out of control. Seek treatment, and especially professional therapy, and remind yourself that treatment takes time. If you stick to your regimen, you will improve more every day.