Beyond Retail Therapy: Do You Have a Shopping Addiction?

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According to April Benson, Ph.D., author of To Buy or Not to Buy, one of the major problems with shopping addiction is that it’s often called “the ‘smiled-upon addiction’ because it’s socially condoned.” But in reality, this addiction, like many others, can wreak havoc to the point it destroys families.

Shopping addiction becomes dangerous because most shopaholics put their purchases on credit cards, which is the leading cause of debt in American households. In fact, recent studies have shown that credit card debt is at a record high as of January 2018.

Keep reading to find out the ins and outs of shopping addiction and how you can treat it.

Compulsive vs. Impulse Shopping

The difference between impulsive and compulsive shopping is based on the feelings that motivate the purchases. When you shop impulsively, you are making a purchase without planning.

You’re primarily reacting to an external trigger like seeing a sale sticker on an item you already wanted. If you are a compulsive shopper, you are more likely to shop for an internal reason. Compulsive shopping trips are primarily brought on to relieve uncomfortable feelings like sadness or anxiety.

Because compulsive shopping is a response to an emotional need, it is more likely to become a problem. Compulsive shopping is the first step of shopping addiction.

Signs of Shopping Addiction

To properly diagnose shopping addiction, you have to look at a few different factors. For starters, just because a person likes to shop often, it doesn’t mean they have a problem.

If you are shopping beyond your financial means on a regular basis for products you don’t need, you most likely have a problem. Whereas splurging on gifts during the holiday season isn’t uncommon nor does it leave a major impact.

Here are some signs to look out for in yourself or loved ones if you suspect an addition to shopping.

You Often Buy Things You Don’t Need

Every once in a while, we all buy things we don’t need. Maybe there was a massive sale and you hadn’t treated yourself in a long time. Purchases like that are perfectly fine.

But if you constantly buy items that you can do without, you might have a problem. Some people might say they are obsessed with buying new electronics, for instance. Having more organized obsessions like these don’t make it less of a problem.

Not everyone with a shopping addiction splurges on anything and everything. Some people have a particular type of poison.

Shopping is an Emotional Response

Addictions tend to fill emotional voids like loneliness, anger, or confidence. In this realm, shopping addictions aren’t very different from substance abuse.

So, if you see yourself rushing to the mall (or your favorite website) when you’re upset, you might want to further analyze your own intentions.

Not Shopping Gives You Anxiety

Just as alcoholics go through withdrawal when they don’t have a drink, shopaholics tend to feel anxious when they don’t shop. Even if you usually like to shop in a store, people with this addiction will shop online in order to reach that feeling of joy or highness if their day is too packed to make it to their store of choice.

You Get a Rush from Making Purchases

It isn’t the joy of owning a new item that makes people with shopping addictions feel a rush or high. It’s the actual act of making a purchase that drives the feeling.

Dopamine, the chemical that releases pleasure into the brain is released in small waves when shopaholics buy things. The continuous surges of dopamine are often addictive.

But You Feel Guilty Afterward

Most people with shopping addictions often hunt for bargains. So, the guilt doesn’t always come from overspending, it comes from knowing they probably weren’t supposed to be shopping in the first place.

In the mist of feeling guilty, most will try to rationalize the purchases.

You Try to Hide Your Shopping

This is the number one sign of a shopping problem. If you feel like you have to hide your purchases from friends and family, it is a sign that you need help.

Other Shopping Addict Characteristics

Shopping addiction can present itself in brick and mortar stores and online where stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Regardless of which type of shopping you enjoy doing the most, these are some characteristics shopping addicts have in common:

  • Improper impulse control
  • A family history of mood disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Problems in relationships
  • Financial stress

If you think your shopping has gotten out of hand, it’s best to get to the root of the problem to gain control over the issue.

Treatment Options

If you have a shopping addiction, you don’t have to be alone when trying to overcome it.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs are among the best you can enroll in for behavior modification. During these therapy treatments, you will have weekly meetings with a trained therapist.

They will help you understand what’s motivating your shopping and how to resolve it best. The appointments are mostly scheduled once a week.

Another therapeutic method you can benefit from is CBT group therapy. During these sessions, you and other people who are battling addiction can share your stories in an open format with a therapist present to help you.

More serious shopping addictions can be helped if you join an inpatient shopping addiction center. In these types of facilities, professionals will monitor your overall health while you are going through treatment.

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Shopping addiction can take a toll on every aspect of your life, starting with your finances. Take the steps to help make yourself happier by getting to the root of the problem to find a solution. Continue to learn more about customer relations and shopping.

If you liked learning about shopping addiction, you will love reading the other articles on our website. Check out the rest of our informative articles on all topics including health, beauty, technology, and travel.

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