Is it an Addiction to Shopping?

Addictions Content Team Info icon
Calendar icon Last Updated: 09/17/2018

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Maxed out credit cards, relationship/money problems, can’t resist a sale – is it an addiction to shopping? Another equally important question to ask is: can you control the urge to shop?

As acceptable as everyday shopping may seem, having a compulsive need to buy things regardless of whether you need them or not doesn’t bode well for the pocketbook. People who reach a point where they’re asking themselves “is it an addiction to shopping?” may very well be ready to accept that it’s become a problem in their lives.

Any time addiction becomes an issue, certain cycles or phases start to take shape within a person’s behaviors. The same goes for shopping addictions. While shopping, in and of itself, may appear to be the only problem, other underlying issues may actually be feeding the urge to shop. So when asking “is it an addiction to shopping?” keep in mind that shopping may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Compulsive Buying

Addiction to Shopping

A shopping addiction can take over your life, negatively affecting your well-being, finances, and relationships.

Any time a compulsive drive or urge enters the picture, a person is more likely to lose control over his or her behavior. Some people may justify compulsive buying by only purchasing items on sale, but at what point is it an addiction to shopping?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, someone with a shopping addiction develops a preoccupation with shopping in general. This includes thinking about it, planning one’s life around it and experiencing all the tensions and anxieties that go with an addictive pursuit.

Shopaholics actually experience a personal pleasure from the shopping experience rather than the acquisition of new things. This personal pleasure is what drives the addiction. So when asking “is it an addiction to shopping,” take note of the emotional tone of the experience before, during and after making purchases.

Shopping Phases

For shopping addictions, the shopping experience can be broken down into four distinct phases:

  • Anticipation
  • Preparation
  • Shopping
  • Spending

Anticipation entails dwelling on shopping itself or having a particular item. Preparation has to do with deciding when, where and how the shopping experience will unfold and what to purchase. The shopping phase is where the excitement and thrill kicks in while the actual spending phase brings on feelings of disappointment and being let down.

When these four phases are present, not only is it an addiction to shopping, but it actually functions in much the same way as an alcohol or drug addiction.

Existing Psychological Conditions

It’s not uncommon for a shopping addiction to coexist with other psychological conditions, such as:

  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse

Taken from this vantage point, “is it an addiction to shopping” becomes “what’s really driving a person’s compulsive buying behaviors?”

In this respect, the thrill of shopping rather supports a person’s sense of satisfaction and self-content. Add to this the actual chemical processes involved in the thrill of the shopping experience and an addiction becomes more and more likely the longer a person engages in the behavior.

Addressing any underlying issues that may be fueling a shopping addiction can go a long way towards helping to curb a shopping addiction.

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