Shopping Addiction

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What is a Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction is a behavioral addiction in which a person shops compulsively to relieve distressing negative emotions like anxiety, pain, and sadness. People who suffer from shopping addiction tend to experience preoccupation with shopping, uncontrollable urges to shop and spend more time shopping than on other important activities and obligations. Shopping addiction can be effectively treated using cognitive and behavioral psychotherapies that address negative thoughts and behaviors driving the addiction.

Shopping addiction affects more than one in 20 adults in the U.S. and is marked by the desire to shop and purchase items despite not needing those items or having the ability to afford such items. Shopping addiction and drug addiction share many of the same traits and behaviors, except instead of being addicted to substances, individuals who suffer from shopping addiction are addicted to the feelings triggered by shopping, or to the act of shopping itself.

When left untreated, shopping addiction can interfere with your mental and emotional health and cause problems surrounding your finances, relationships, career, and education. Getting professional treatment for your shopping addiction can help you overcome the root causes of your addiction, and teach you how to shop and lead a healthier lifestyle without jeopardizing your livelihood.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction?

People who suffer from shopping addiction may experience anxiety when they’re not shopping and may talk or think non-stop about the act of shopping and making purchases. Many of these individuals lose interest in the items they buy as soon as they get home, and won’t even use them. Financial hardship is a common sign of shopping addiction, as well as evidence of new, unused items around the home that seem to keep piling up.

Shopping addiction tends to be more common among certain personality types. People who identify as extroverts may use shopping to boost or maintain their physical appearance and social appeal, and become addicted to buying new outfits for every occasion. Those who tend to be moody and neurotic are also more prone to shopping addiction since these individuals make use shopping to self-medicate and relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and self-consciousness.

Knowing common signs and symptoms of shopping addiction can help you determine whether you or a loved one may need professional treatment.

Some of the signs of shopping addiction include:

  • You may spend far more than initially planned every time you go shopping, or use money intended for other expenses to cover the costs of a shopping excursion.
  • Compulsive purchases. You might compulsively buy things you don’t need, or buy multiple copies of the same item, such as ten pairs of shoes.
  • Chronic shopping. Your unhealthy shopping habits have become chronic, such as you overspend every time you shop or shop at a highly frequent rate.
  • Lying about the problem. You may stretch the truth about what you purchased and how much you spent, or lie about situations revolving around your shopping behaviors.
  • Feelings of guilt. Many shopping addicts experience feelings of guilt, remorse, anger, and sadness following the euphoria they experience when shopping and making purchases. If your mood tends to worsen after you finish shopping or arrive back home, you may be suffering from shopping addiction.
  • Broken relationships. Your relationships may start suffering due to the consequences of your shopping addiction. For instance, your loved ones may feel neglected as you start devoting more time shopping than to spending quality time with your family.
  • Ignoring the consequences. Those who suffer from shopping addiction will often keep shopping despite knowing there may be negative consequences such as broken relationships, financial hardship, and worsened mental health. But at the same time, these individuals are often unable to quit shopping despite attempts to do so and require treatment that teaches them skills for overcoming and avoiding shopping triggers.

Additional Signs or Behaviors that Could be a Sign of Shopping Addiction

Here are other signs and behaviors that indicate you or a loved one may be suffering from shopping addiction.

  • Spending money when you are angry
  • Spending money when you are anxious
  • Spending money when you are depressed
  • Arguing about spending habits
  • Feeling lost if you are not spending
  • Purchasing items on credit when you don’t have the cash to cover them
  • Feeling a rush when shopping
  • Feeling guilty or embarrassed about shopping after the fact
  • Obsessing about money

How Does Shopping Addiction Interact with Drug Addiction?

Just like with any other addiction, shopping addiction can lead to difficulties with managing negative emotions like anxiety and depression. Those with shopping addiction who are unable to cope with these emotions may start using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms. For instance, a person who comes home after a day-long shopping spree may start feeling guilty and remorseful about their spending and use drugs and alcohol to escape their negative feelings. The presence of another addiction or mental health disorder in addition to shopping addiction is known as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis and can be treated at the same time as a shopping addiction.

On the other hand, people in recovery from drug addiction may use shopping as a way to cope with negative emotions or withdrawal symptoms that linger as part of post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are common PAWS symptoms for those recovering from opioid and stimulant addiction. These individuals may use shopping as a way to relieve symptoms, not knowing their behaviors could trigger another addiction.

How are Shopping Addiction and Substance Use Disorders Treated?

Researchers indicate that as many as 75% of compulsive shoppers will admit they have a problem, but don’t know how to get help. Shopping addiction can be effectively treated using counseling, pharmacotherapy, and cognitive and behavioral therapies.

  • Behavioral therapy –This therapy helps you identify and improve negative behaviors surrounding shopping addiction. For example, if you turn to shopping every time you experience anxiety, you’ll learn how to practice healthier behaviors like exercise and deep breathing that can naturally help reduce anxiety.
  • Cognitive therapy This therapy helps you identify and improve negative thinking patterns that may be driving your shopping addiction. For instance, if you measure your self-worth by the amount of new clothes and accessories you own, you’ll learn how to feel more confident about yourself without the need to buy new clothes.
  • Financial counseling –This therapy teaches you how to shop more responsibly and how to budget your finances — both of which are useful skills to have when overcoming shopping addiction and leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
  • Self-help books –Many self-help guides are available to help shoppers overcome compulsive shopping habits and find new ways to have fun without overspending.
  • Support groups – Support groups allow you to bond with others recovering from compulsive shopping and addiction and are often available in your local community or addiction treatment center.
  • Medications – Those who suffer from shopping addiction and a mental health disorder like depression may be prescribed medications to treat and relieve symptoms. Medications may be prescribed on an ongoing basis to help you stave off mental health symptoms and experience a healthy, full recovery from shopping addiction