Shopping Addiction-How to Control


Here is a shopping addiction quiz:

Are you suffering from compulsive shopping addiction?  Answer these questions to know if you do:

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  1. Do you go on buying binges when you feel lonely, anxious, disappointed, depressed or angry?
  2. Do you feel a high when you go on a buying binge?
  3. Do you feel on edge, agitated or irritable when you haven’t been able to buy something?
  4. Do you spend a lot of time watching the shopping channel on TV or surfing shopping websites?
  5. Do you try to stay within budget, but always fall short of your goal?
  6. Do you often run your credit cards up to the limit?
  7. Do you try to stay within budget but always fall short of your goal?

Lisa Matthews who always has had a rock solid marriage found cracks appearing in it when every month, those credit card bills would mount. “I know it very well that the fights that we have over the figures in these bills are eating into our relationship.  But still I feel powerless to fight the shopping impulse when it hits me. After each shopping splurge, I start dreading the next fight I will have with my husband and to tide over this stress, I go shopping again. I really want to break this dreadful cycle, but don’t know how to.”

According to the experts, a shopping addiction is not as uncommon as it seems.  “What Lisa calls a habit or even an impulse is actually an addiction. Shopping is fun for most of us but when this seemingly innocent pastime spirals out of control, it gets classified as shopping addiction,” says Briana Peters, a consultant psychologist from California.

There is a clear-cut difference between shopping for a need and a shopping to fill a need. And therein lies the divided that differentiates a shopper from a compulsive or obsessive shopper.  Noyonika James, a consultant clinical psychologist adds, “Actually, addiction is defined as having a compulsion to commit a behavior.  Being unable to stop a behavior, and continuing the behavior despite harmful implications.  Research shows that indulgence in that behavior can lift one’s mood momentarily.  A ‘feeling good’ sense of being and an adrenaline rush rewards a shopaholic.  But then this lift is not permanent.  The shopaholic must go out and shop more in order  to find the next boost in hormones”

Though shopping addiction is perceived to be a woman’s domain, even men are equally prone to it. A new research one in 20 women or men is suffering from compulsive shopping addiction

Causes of shopping addiction

Like many addictions, lack of self-esteem, loneliness and feeling of void can be the factors.  Shopping addiction disorder has been linked to emotional deprivation during childhood, excitement seeking, excessive dependency, general impulsiveness, a falsified need to gain control etc.  The root-cause, as mentioned before, is childhood.  Apart from deprivation of being denied what he or she wanted back then, childhood conditioning can also be a factor for shopping addiction. For instance, Dr. Briana Peters says, “Once a husband brought his wife to the clinic to be treated for her compulsive shopping addiction. After many sessions with her, we understood that her problem was childhood conditioning. As a child, whenever she would buy something, her parents used to praise her for her independent behavior. She grew up enjoying the feeling of being different from others and felt superior to her friends and cousins. Gradually, she got addicted to shopping. “

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According to Noyonika, sometimes a loss can also be a trigger.  She says, “I remember a mother-daughter duo whose shopping habits went out of control . Their teenage son/brother committed suicide. This sense of sadness grew into low self-worth and as they were emotionally weak, they decided to perk themselves with shopping to fill the void.”

Treatment for shopping addiction; How to Control It

According to experts, one should understand that shopping addiction and spending money does not translate to more love, peace, increase in self-esteem or repair a loss or heal a regretful feeling.  It definitely doesn’t ease stress though temporarily it may make you feel that way.  Shopaholics tend to distance themselves from friends and family, lie often to feed their addiction.  There are practical shortcomings too, for instance; a shopaholic are always short of money and end up borrowing money.  Soon people start avoiding them and they are left without friends, which only contribute to their problems.  Shopping addiction, at times, can also occur with many other types of addictions like gambling, alcohol, drugs, eating disorders etc.  Briana remembers a 27 year old boy who came to her with shopping addiction problem and alcohol abuse. “He would shop for clothes all the time and whenever he was short of money, he would prefer to take long walks and skip meals.  He would wear those clothes and would go to pubs and bars and then would begin drinking Soon he was battling between alcohol abuse and shopping addiction.

While treating compulsive shopping addiction, the doctor should tackle the root cause. For instance, in some patients,  cognitive behavior therapy may work but in others, one may have to do hypnosis.


How to control shopping addiction

  1. Own up to the problem and let people in your life know that you have an out of control spending habit.
  2. Acknowledge debts and seek help to resolve them. Use a pen and paper or budget software to find out how and where money is going, and how it can be controlled.  Take help from consumer credit counseling services for your debts.
  3. Figure out the root cause. What triggers you to go shopping? Keep a log.
  4. Windows shop only after stores have closed for the day . Otherwise leave your wallet at home.
  5. Replace shopping with exercises. When the urge strikes, get on a treadmill or go for a run. Push as hard as you can go to release endorphins and gets a ‘runner’s high’
  6. Cut up all your credit cards and only make purchases that you can pay for with debit cards or cash.
  7. Create a weekly spending plan and stick to it.
  8. Do not go shopping alone Take a friend along.
  9. Do not shop without a list of specific items to buy and avoid malls.
  10. Seek professional help or counseling to manage depression or anxiety.
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