Shopping addiction has a technical name that is called Omniomania. This literally means obsessive shopping, and it is perhaps the most socially reinforced of the behavioral compulsions. Shopping addiction is distinguished by the widespread craving to shop and purchase items regardless of a need for such items or despite a basic ability to pay for such items. Consumerism is one of the principal measures of social elite in America and this makes shopping addiction an even more common problem for many.
Most people enjoy shopping at least a slight bit… but for some, a mania to “shop ‘till they drop” takes over and triggers them to rack up credit cards and overspend to a situation in which their behaviors lead to many harmful consequences. Shopping addiction has a lot of the same characteristics as any substance abuse dependence in that the shopper just doesn’t feel fine until they have surpassed their limit when shopping. Many acute shoppers will instinctively spend hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of dollars before recognizing that they have a crisis and need help.
Compulsive shopping can be a seasonal disorder (often around the holidays) or it can be an on-going ailment. The disproportionate need that shopaholics feel for the “pick me up” that comes from shopping can lead to a surplus of purchases, typically that have little or no need or requirement for the shopper besides that they wanted the item, so they purchased it.
Compulsive shopping can lead to extreme debut as well as hoarding issues, which in and of themselves can have devastating consequences. Shopping addiction also often wreaks havoc on relationships and families.
Shopping addiction is not a new found disorder. It has affected millions of individuals for many years and dates back to as early as the 19th century. Friends and family members go out and shop together, people shop socially, people shop for something to do (a little like television) and people shop to fulfill negative emotions. An addiction to shopping leads to compulsive shopping that can result in many negative feelings. Currently over 5% of Americans are affected by compulsive buying disorder.
There are many signs to compulsive shopping, and they are often tricky to recognize, but some are:
- Compulsive Purchases
- Chronic Shopping
- Lying about purchases
- Euphoria after shopping, usually followed by guilt.
- Spending money when you’re depressed, angry or anxious
- Feeling a ‘rush’ when you’re spending
As you can see, there is a fine line between a ‘shopping spree’ and shopping addiction. Here are some subtle differences:
- A shopping spree is usually baked by the money needed to make the purchases
- Shopping sprees are often centered around an event (a holiday, a birthday/anniversary, etc)
If you think that you have a problem, there are some simple, immediate steps that you can take to limit your spending:
- Take a friend with you when shopping, in order to monitor your purchases, and help remind you of what you need and what you don’t.
- Pay for everything in cash. This may be difficult for some, but its one sure way you can cover your purchases.
- Make shopping lists, and stick to them.
- Avoid clearance items and discount isles. Unless it’s on your list, you don’t need it.
- To be sure, the main thing you can do first of course is to admit that you have a problem, or at least are beginning to.
As far as treatment goes, there is good news; there are various avenues for help. Inpatient programs are not always needed for chronic shoppers, but it some cases, a quality substance abuse treatment center may be just the ticket. Cognitive and behavioral therapy is very helpful in identifying and helping treat the underlying issues that go along with compulsive shopping disorders. It’s an on-going process, so you should be prepared to attend therapy for a significant period. There is also financial counseling available for many, as debt is a common side effect of chronic shopping addiction. 12-step, self-help programs are very popular, and often produce excellent results in recovery – Spenders Anonymous is a good place to start. Lastly, self-help books on the subject are numerous, and are a good thing…to put on your shopping list.