A shopping addiction is defined as a compulsion to purchase, whether the objects purchased are clothing, electronics, gadgets, gifts or even food. Though ‘shopping too much’ is often a joke in television, books and movies, it is a serious problem that can be a self-destructive force in the sufferer’s life and have long-term social, emotional, relationship, and financial consequences.
If you are concerned that you or someone that you love has a shopping addiction, it is important to consider what an addiction to shopping really is and what form shopping addiction treatment might take.
Risks of a Shopping Addiction
An addiction is defined by a loss of control, and a loss of control due to shopping can have serious consequences.
Individuals with a shopping addiction may spend money that they don’t have and fill their homes with things that they don’t need. In addition to this, they may use shopping as an escape to avoid facing any concerns that need attention in their lives. Some shopping addicts excuse this addiction by buying gifts for others.
Do You Have an Addiction?
According to a 2006 study from Stanford University, about 6% of women and 5.5% of men are compulsive shoppers. The study further defines the condition as an impulse-related control disorder. The study goes on to estimate that a certain percentage of all compulsive buyers will become hoarders, though it is common for individuals to get rid of old items and make way for new purchases.
The complication with identifying a compulsive shopping addiction, at least as a society, is that it is not a criminalized activity, nor does it typically have results that are associated with crime. Unlike cocaine or heroin, it is not illegal to go shopping, and unlike alcoholism which can result in drunk driving, it does not lead to death or injury. How does one distinguish an addiction to shopping from someone who merely loves a good bargain or who likes to go shopping now and again? The answer is to look not at the activity itself, but what causes it and the emotions surrounding it.
For example, an individual who has an addiction to shopping usually uses shopping as a response to stress. As the Stanford University study states, this is an impulse control disorder, and as such, it is very closely linked to how the addict manages control in their life. An individual who simply loves to shop thinks of shopping as a fun activity to engage in. Someone who has a shopping addiction is frequently using the addiction to cover something in their life where they do not have control. They may be using the shopping as a way to assert control and to feel confident over their lives. Alternately, it is important to remember that shopping for many individuals carries with it a specific kind of “high.” When something is purchased and brought home, there is a feeling of satisfaction that comes with it. This feeling of satisfaction, especially when other sources of satisfaction are lacking, can become quite addictive.
Another indication that shopping is an addiction rather than a simple pleasure or a necessity is the after effect. Most individuals who have a normal relationship with shopping will feel satisfied about their purchases after they are done. A shopping addict, on the other hand, may already be planning their next trip, or they might have a number of negative feelings related to their shopping. They may be angry that they have gone shopping yet again, or they may already feel unhappy about spending so much money.
One of the top signs that an addiction might be in play is what happens if the activity is taken away. If the individual feels nervous, upset or angry at the idea of not shopping, they may have an addiction.
Understanding Shopping Addiction Treatment
Because there is no chemical component and because individuals with shopping addictions are not usually a danger to themselves or to others, there is usually no inpatient treatment. Treating an addiction to shopping instead usually includes work with a support group and a therapist.
Treatment typically involves a great deal of self-reflection and a greater sense of understanding. Shopping for an addict is a behavior that is undertaken as an escape. A therapist will work to unearth what needs to be escaped and to discover what the underlying cause might be.
After the causes are understood, a treatment plan is developed. A treatment plan for a compulsive shopping addiction might include activities to engage in instead of shopping, a method for dealing with stressful situations, a way to curtail shopping when it does happen, and other thought processes that are designed to block the activity.
It is also important for the therapist to ensure that the individual with a shopping addiction does not merely transfer their addiction to another activity. Individuals who have troubles with one addiction can often find that they are prone to addiction across the board. This is a scenario that a good therapist can watch out for and prevent.
A support group is also a good choice for someone who is looking into shopping addiction treatment. Some individuals worry that they will be made fun of for an addiction that sounds less serious than a chemical addiction, or they are worried about what their loved ones may think. Though an addiction can happen to anyone, there is a great deal of fear and shame associated with addictions of every sort. A shopping addiction treatment group can give an addict context for their troubles, it can show them that they are not alone and it can help them develop coping mechanisms for how they deal with their addiction.
There is no set time for a recovery from being a shopaholic. Some people go on to have no issues with shopping, while other people find that they always have to be at least a little careful. Like any addiction, there is always a risk that stress and frustration can bring back an addiction that was thought to be treated, and it is always a good idea to be conscious of risk situations.
Are you looking for shopping addiction treatment that matches you or your loved one’s needs and wants? Call our addiction advisors for the guidance you’re looking for: 1-800-259-1361