Shopping Addiction: Is It a Disorder?

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Shopping addiction is probably one of the most accepted addictions in society. We are bombarded with daily advertising that tells us we’ll be happier as long as we buy more stuff.

Politicians encourage shopping as a way to boost the economy. While most people shop at some point in their life, only 6% of the U.S. population is considered to have a shopping addiction.

What is Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction, also known as oniomania, is a behavioral addiction that involves compulsive buying so the purchaser feels good and avoids negative feelings like depression or anxiety. Occasional shopping splurges are normal, especially within the purchaser’s means. However, suppose the purchaser feels down in between shopping sprees, is constantly spending beyond their means, or can’t wait until they shop again. In that case, they may have an addiction to shopping, similar to gambling or alcohol addiction.

Potential symptoms of shopping addiction include 

  • Buying things you do not need
  • Feeling guilty after buying items
  • Having a hard time stopping to shop 
  • Constantly thinking about purchasing more goods
  • Hiding things you bought or lying about them
  • Spending more than you can afford on shopping

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What Causes Someone to Become a Shopping Addict?

When the causes of shopping addiction are identified, it is easier to understand and treat the disorder. Many factors come into play when someone is experiencing a shopping addiction, including: 

  • Stress and Anxiety: According to some opinions, stress and anxiety are the leading causes of a shopping addiction. After a person goes shopping, endorphins are released allowing the person to feel happier and less stressed. The happiness will be temporary until they go shopping again, and the cycle continues. 
  • Advertisements: Many advertisements depict themselves as providing happiness when one purchases their goods. As a result, people may be lured to engage in shopping addiction. 
  • A way of coping: Different people use different methods to cope with hard emotions and difficulties. Shopping addicts use shopping as a way to escape and avoid emotional pains. Many refer to it as “retail therapy,” where shopping is substituted for therapy. Retail therapy generally causes one to get into more difficulties and is not a long-term solution for life’s problems. 
  • Physicality:  Shopping addicts are more likely to be more materialistic. They feel that their possessions reflect their status and will use shopping as a way to find favor from others. 
  • Personality: People with lower self-esteem are more likely to engage in shopping addiction as a way to boost their self-confidence and gain more opportunities to be in contact with others.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders: Many times, individuals who experience spending addiction have other comorbid disorders. These can include substance use disorder, eating disorders, and personality disorders. 


Effects of Spending Addiction:

While shopping addicts believe that shopping will solve their problems, impulsive and compulsive shopping can have many detrimental effects. It is important to receive shopping addiction treatment before the effects become enlarged.

Short-term effects of Shopping Addiction Include:

  • Feelings of euphoria after a purchase
  • Excitement when planning or completing a purchase
  • Unhappiness and restlessness when not shopping
  • Strained family relations


Long-Term Effects of Shopping Addiction Include: 

  • Financial problems that may escalate into bankruptcy
  • Developing a hoarding disorder
  • Legal problems due to shoplifting and fraud


Types of Shopping Addicts

Knowing the different types of shopping addicts that exist will help a person identify to which category he/she belongs. Several types of shopaholics are listed below:

  • Collector Shopaholics - These shopaholics will only stop shopping once their collection is complete. For example, if they are buying one brand of purses, they won’t stop until they’ve bought every type of purse from that brand.
  • Trophy Shopaholics - trophy shopaholics are perfectionists by nature. They won’t stop shopping until they’ve found the perfect item. They often will rarely be satisfied with their purchases.
  • Bulimic Shopaholics - bulimic shoppers will purchase items just for the pleasure of shopping. Afterward, they will return the item. This process becomes a cycle.
  • Compulsive Shopaholics - These shoppers are compelled by an obsessive need to shop when feeling emotional distress.
  • Bargain Seekers - These shoppers will buy an item not because they need it but only because it’s on sale.
  • Big Spender Shopaholics - These types of shopaholics will shop just to create the image of being wealthy, whether they are or not.


Do I Have a Shopping Addiction?

To determine if you have a shopping addiction ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you always busy planning your next purchase?
  2. Are you unable to take a break from shopping?
  3. Are you having financial difficulties or are unable to pay off debt as a result of unnecessary shopping?
  4. Do you shop to relieve sadness or stress?
  5. Do you sometimes feel guilty after a purchase because you know you can’t afford your purchase, but you can’t stop yourself from buying?
  6. Do you tend to feel euphoria after a shopping spree?
  7. Do you find yourself opening new credit cards without paying off existing ones?
  8. Do you find yourself hiding receipts or stuffing your shopping bags in the closet so your roommate or family members won’t know you went shopping again?
  9. Do you find that you don’t use most of the stuff you bought but feel like you can’t live without shopping?
  10. Do you find yourself fantasizing that you have more money to buy more often?
  11. Do you have fights with family or friends about your need to shop?
  12. After a shopping spree do you feel guilty or embarrassed?

If you answered yes to many of the above questions, then you may need to get shopping addiction treatment.


How to Receive Shopping Addiction Help

The earlier you stop your spending addiction, the better. The are various treatment options available that can help you stop your addiction. As with all cases of addictions, reach out to us at Avenues Recovery to see how we can help.

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Shopping Addiction Treatment Options:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction gets to the root of the thought pattern that is causing the compulsive shopper to keep shopping. By getting therapy, the shopper will learn how to replace addictive behaviors with healthy alternatives.
  • Family and Couples Therapy can help build relationships that were damaged as a result of the breach of trust created by using family resources to shop excessively.
  • Shopping Addiction Support Groups or Group Therapy for Addiction offers therapy and support in a group setting. Realizing that others are compulsive shoppers can help the addicted shopper to realize they are not alone.
  • 12-step Programs for shopping addiction are another type of shopping addiction support group. The client admits that their spending addiction has gotten out of control, that abstinence is the only option, and that continuing to go to meetings will help them maintain abstinence.
  • Pharmacotherapy can be helpful for people experiencing anxiety or depression in addition to a shopping addiction. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can also be effective for treating compulsive shopping. Additionally, according to the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, naltrexone, a drug that treats opiate addiction, and topiramate, an anti-convulsion medicine have shown promise in treating compulsive buying [1].


Additional Tips to Stop a Spending Addiction:

  • Pay With Cash - Ask a family member to hold your credit card for you and try only to buy things with cash. This will limit your ability to overspend.
  • Avoid Shopping Online - It’s easy to overspend when you shop online because it’s hard to keep track of what you buy.
  • Keep Track of Your Spending - Keep a journal of everything you spend including rent, groceries, etc… Once you know what your true expenditures are, it will help you limit your spending.
  • Ask Your Friends or Family For Help - If you’re afraid you will overspend when you go shopping alone, ask a friend or family to come with you to make sure you don’t overspend.


Shopping Addiction Help at Avenues Recovery

If you are experiencing shopping addiction, know that it does not need to overtake your life. At Avenues Recovery, we offer various treatment options to get you back to your best self. Our professionals are here to provide you with individualized care and support throughout the entire process. Reach out to us today to begin your journey to recovery. 

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