Symptoms of Shopping Addiction | Causes | Effects
A shopping addict is somebody who shops compulsively and who may feel like they has no power over their shopping behaviour.
What Are The Different Types of Shopping or Spending Addictions?
As described by Shopaholics Anonymous, there are a several distinctive behaviours associated with shopaholics:
- Compulsive shoppers – shop to distract feelings; “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping”
- Trophy shoppers – find the perfect accessory for outfits, etc. High class items will do.
- Image shoppers – pick up tab, expensive cars, highly visible stuff
- Bargain shoppers – buy stuff they don’t need just because it is a good deal. Out for the hunt.
- Codependent shoppers – to gain love and approval
- Bulimic Shoppers—buy and return, buy and return (similar to actual bulimia)
- Collector Shoppers—have to have complete or many sets of objects or different colors of same style of clothing
What Causes a Shopping Addiction?
Ruth Engs from Indiana University states, “a few people get entangled in shopping addictions since they basically get dependent on how their brain feels while shopping. As they shop, their brain discharges endorphins and dopamine, and after some time, these emotions end up plainly addictive”. Engs claims that 10 to 15 percent of the population might be inclined to these sentiments.
Warning Signs of Shopping Addiction
It might be hard to identify whether someone is suffering with shopping addiction. Lots of people love shopping, and excessive spending while out on a shopping trip is common. Going on a shopping binge once in a while does not make you a shopping addict. There are however signs and indications you can look out for that may identify behaviour associated with problematic spending or a shopping addiction.
Emotional Symptoms of Shopping Addiction
Like all addicts, shopping addicts may attempt to hide their habit, and someone who is dependent on shopping may go to great lengths to conceal it from those around them. If someone is hiding credit card bills, shopping bags or receipts, these could be signs they are shopping excessively. At times, shopaholics may attempt to hide their compulsion by lying about certain components of it.
For example, someone may concede they went shopping, but lie about the amount the amount they spent or number of items they bought.
Other behaviours you might see a shopaholic presenting with can include:
- Spending more than their budget
- Shopping as a response to an emotional state such as being angry or upset
- Shopping as a reaction to feeling regret about a past shopping binge
- Breakdown in relationships due to reasons related to shopping and associated behaviours
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Shopping Addiction
The short-term effects of excessive shopping can feel positive. After a shopping binge you may feel fulfilled or happy, less stressed or perhaps excited about your new purchases. Shopaholics regularly find these emotional responses to shopping are mixed with feelings of remorse, uneasiness or guilt. These negative feelings can compel shopaholics to try and ‘fix’ themselves by embarking on another shopping spree in an attempt to make themselves feel better again.
The long term impacts of a shopping addiction can differ in intensity and scope and are generally much more negative. Many shopping addicts can face financial issues, and they may progress toward becoming obsessed with shopping or spending. Credit cards are easily maxed out or saving quickly diminished or loans acquired to keep up with the persistent spending. In more extreme cases, they may take out a second mortgage on their home or charge buys to business credit cards to continue financing the need to shop. Personal relationships can often suffer, in extreme cases this can even result in separation or isolation from friends and family.
Is there a test or self-assessment I can do?
Terrence Daryl Shulman, JD, LMSW, ACSW, CAAC, CPC Founder/Director, The Shulman Center for Theft Addictions & Disorders compiled a checklist for people to assess whether they might have a problem with compulsive shopping or a shopping addiction
Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to a significant number of them, you may have a compulsion or addiction to shopping:
- Do you “take off for the stores” when you’ve experienced a setback or a disappointment, or when you feel angry or scared?
- Are your spending habits emotionally disturbing to you and have they created chaos in you life?
- Do your shopping habits create conflicts between you and someone close to you (spouse, lover, parents, children)?
- Do you buy items with your credit cards that you wouldn’t buy if you had to pay cash?
- When you shop, do you feel a rush of euphoria mixed with feelings of anxiety?
- Do you feel you’re performing a dangerous, reckless or forbidden act when you shop?
- When you return home after shopping, do you feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed or confused?
- Are many of your purchases seldom or never worn or used?
- Do you lie to your family or friends about what you buy and how much you spend?
- Would you feel “lost” without credit cards?
- Do you think about money excessively – how much you have, how much you owe, how much you wish you had – and then go out and shop again?
- Do you spend a lot of time juggling accounts and bills to accommodate your shopping debts?
Is there any medication available to help shopaholics?
According to MSN Money, the research on drugs that may treat shopping addictions has not uncovered any indisputable proof about which kind of medications might be the most accommodating in treating this issue. Even so, many shopaholics reportedly treat their addictions by turning to anti-anxiety drugs or even anti-depressants.
ABC News reports that a medication called memantine could potentially help shopaholics. Intended to treat Alzheimer’s, this medication may help reduce the compulsive behavior associated with shopping addiction.
Drug Side Effects
Side effects of these medications differ from one another. If you choose to take antidepressants, for example, you may experience any of the following reactions:
- Insomnia or erratic sleep patterns
- Feelings of uneasiness
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Headaches or Migraines
Always talk with a specialist about possible reactions before taking any medicine.
Withdrawal symptoms in Shopaholics
Withdrawal side effects can differ from person to person. Chicago Tribune reported that, “many shopping addicts will encounter withdrawal side effects that are like the withdrawal indications experienced by individuals who are dependent on drugs or liquor. In the event that you feel irritable, discouraged or crazy after a shopping binge, you might encounter withdrawal, and you may need to seek professional help in the form of a therapist or counsellor.”
Shopping and Depression
Donald Black from the University of Iowa, published in Esperanza magazine, almost 66% of all shopaholics battle with depression or anxiety. When treating a shopping compulsion, you may also need to address other emotional well-being issues. When looking for a suitable treatment program, you should try and find an option that can address both the dependence and these associated emotional aspects of the addiction.
How to Get Help for a Shopping Addiction
If you think you or someone you know is a shopaholic and you need to find help, always consult a professional. Your family Doctor can be a great place to begin and will often be able to refer you to a specialist. Treatment for shopping addiction usually comes in the form of counselling or psychotherapy. As with all addiction, there is no easy fix and treatment can often be ongoing. Find a therapist or other professional who understands addiction and specifically the issues that are directly associated with compulsive buying or shopping addiction.