Compulsive Buying Disorder

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When Shopping Addiction Takes Over

The desire to buy things and spend your hard earned money is natural. We all want the newest smartphone gadget and the chic summer swimsuit or handbag. We all need to eat and sometimes splurge on ingredients to ensure that our families are ingesting healthy foods. But the line is drawn when these little splurges start disrupting your finances. Moderation is great, but spending practices that border on the extreme are where issues with compulsive buying form. 

The truth is, shopping addiction can be just as damaging as other addictions, like substance addiction or gambling. Uncontrolled urges to spend beyond your means can make you feel like you’re trapped in a cage, unable to make the right move. There are ways to stop shopping addiction in its tracks and break free from compulsive behaviors.The first step is admitting there is a problem. Finding a supportive network is often the most important piece of the puzzle. This may include family and friends that have your back, or, at first, it may include only your supportive treatment team at an addiction recovery center.

What is Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction is also known as compulsive buying disorder. It is a diagnosable condition, characterized by extreme shopping outside of one’s means, hiding purchases, and more. The problem is worldwide – shopping compulsion isn’t just found in the US, although, it is estimated that around 6% of the population will experience characteristics of compulsive buying disorder at some point in their lives.

Coexisting Conditions

Like with other addictions, people who suffer from compulsive buying disorder often have co-occurring disorders. These mental health conditions may include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or something else. Oftentimes, shopping is used to manage symptoms that seem out of control. If you’re feeling sad, buy some shoes. If you’re feeling manic, it’s time to makeover the bathroom. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, let’s go get some new electronics. Buyers get a burst of energy and serotonin from the act of purchasing. Some people buy to feel better about themselves, as a way to boost their self esteem. So, while people use the word “shopaholic” as a term of endearment, the reality is, obsessive shopping is a serious disorder that needs to be diagnosed and treated, similar to any other addiction, such as gambling or substance abuse.

What are the Signs of Shopping Addiction?

Compulsive shopping and regular shopping look very different. If you think that you or someone you love may have an addiction to shopping, getting help is crucial. When addictions fester, they cause big issues. Instead, address the root causes of addiction head on and learn to live addiction-free. Treatment teaches shopaholics to cope with coexisting mental health issues and address the root causes of their addiction. Here are some symptoms and signs of compulsive buying disorder: 

  • Getting a “high” feeling from the act of shopping – this includes feelings of joy, sudden energy, and euphoria
  • An overwhelming urge to make purchases
  • Instantly gratifying that urge to make purchases
  • Buying items that are unneeded or unnecessary
  • Making double purchases 
  • Going to the store intent on making only one purchase but coming out with multiple items
  • Hiding items you’ve purchased in secret places so that family and friends don’t see
  • Lying about shopping trips 
  • Erasing all traces of shopping trips, including deleting cell phone data and throwing away bags and receipts 
  • Many people with compulsive buying disorder are in debt or have maxed out their credit cards
  • Excessive buying is characterized by someone spending outside of their needs and financial limitations

What Problems are Associated with Compulsive Shopping?

The biggest issue with compulsive shopping is that it causes people to live outside of their means. In other words, it causes people to spend more than they make or even have access too. When this happens people max out credit cards and even commit crimes in order to continue to shop. People may resort to borrowing money from family, friends, or the bank. In the case of borrowing from lending agencies, people with shopping addiction often have poor credit scores that follow them. The financial strain becomes a huge burden on the person and their family. Pretty soon, it becomes impossible for the person to fulfill their financial duties and thus, the cycle of addiction begins. This happens when people spend, then feel bad for spending, then spend more to make up for feeling bad. This cycle can go on for years and years before people finally recognize there is a problem. 

When left to fester, this addiction can cause a lot of havoc. People will spend until they’ve run out of money and then resort to other behaviors to keep the addiction going. Therefore, this addiction not only leads to money problems, it also has legal troubles associated with it. Plus, there are emotional and psychological drawbacks to addiction. People begin to live with daily feelings of guilt and shame. Personal relationships may suffer as a result of the addiction – this includes marriages, friendships, and parent-child relationships. Shopping may interfere with a person’s ability to perform on the job. People may lose their job as a result of their addiction. Shopping addiction can have an impact on all assets of a person’s life. This is why identifying the addiction and getting help for it is of the utmost importance.

How do you Recover from Shopping Addiction?

Here are some tips for recovering from compulsive buying:

  • Get professional help – seek therapy with a licensed professional
  • Deal with any coexisting mental health issues, like bipolar, PTSD, depression or anxiety
  • Destroy credit cards 
  • Delete credit card numbers that are digitally stored
  • Only keep cash
  • Make cash more difficult to access 
  • Come up with other ways to make financial resources less accessible
  • Let loved ones know that you have a shopping addiction
  • Write lists and stick to them – shopping lists and buying lists
  • Create a budget
  • Don’t watch shopping television 
  • Avoid going to stores