Last updated: 09/14/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Some people might believe that there is no such thing as an addiction to shopping. That a person is simply greedy and buys everything that they want. Although nobody can say for sure, science now shows more indicators that compulsive shopping addictions are all to real for some people. They cannot control how much they purchase and will buy things they do not even need and spend money they cannot afford sometimes incurring great debt in the process by maxing out credit cards and taking huge loans.
Is Compulsive Shopping Addiction Real?
Scientific studies have shown that for some people, the same reward pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs are also activated by certain behavior such as gambling and hoarding. During a buying spree the compulsive shopper feels elated and excited and they will literally shop until they drop. Afterwards an extreme sense of guilt is usually experienced and the shopper crashes hard. They will often repeat the compulsive behavior to feel good again and this can turn into an endless cycle.
When a compulsive shopper goes to the mall it is different than when you or I go to the mall. They feel compelled to buy everything that they see and not just one of an item, but they will buy the item in multiples with slight variations of color or style. It doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t suffer the addiction.
As with any other kind of addiction they do not have control what they purchase. They will hide what they’ve bought to conceal the amount of money they have spent or try to intercept credit card bills before a spouse or family member sees just how far out control they have spiraled. A compulsive shopper will even avoid shopping with friends because they are afraid they will be discovered.
Like a person with a gambling addiction or other compulsive addictions they are unable to control their behavior and will often shop even more when trying to cut back on their exuberant spending in attempt to conceal their feelings of inadequacy.
Tips for Compulsive Shopping Addiction Recovery
Trying to avoid shopping isn’t a realistic tactic, although you can minimize exposure to places you know you are going to have issues with. Staying away from the mall or staying off internet shopping websites can help to decrease the temptation to shop again. It can also help to limit your access to credit cards and checking accounts.
Sometimes after a bad day at work or an argument with a loved one or spouse a person with a shopping compulsion will feel entitled to shop to make up for the bad feelings they have. Through counseling it is possible to recognize these patterns and change the way your brain reacts to them.
Eventually someone with a compulsive shopping addiction will be able to walk into a store and walk out without buying anything. This sounds simple, but to anyone with a shopping addiction something like that would have been impossible before treatment. According to NIDA, “Addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will.”