Four Signs You Might Be Addicted To Shopping

Have your friends ever called you a shopaholic?  If they do, take a minute to think about how much time you spend shopping and the feeling you get when you purchase something new.  While shopping can sometimes be used in moderation to make you feel a little better about something that is going on in your life, there is a line to how shopping can really be used.  If you find that you are constantly using shopping as a way to deal with problems or you find that you must buy something all the time, it is possible that you have are addicted to shopping or have compulsive buying disorder.

woman addicted to shopping

Compulsive shopping disorder was originally thought to be mostly an affluent white woman’s disease, but recent studies indicate that shopping addiction can affect people of any age, race, or financial bracket.  According to Elizabeth Svoboda in Psychology Today, shopping addiction affects more than one out of every 20 Americans in varying degrees.

If you are concerned that you or someone you love is addicted to shopping, or has “retail therapy syndrome,” then there are some warning signs to look out for.

Excessive and Impulsive Spending

Some compulsive buyers have a particular item that they get a specific feeling from purchasing while others just like to buy things.  To the average person, excessive may feel like buying something large and expensive that you do not entirely have the money for like a high end television or one pair of Jimmy Choo pumps.  But to a shopaholic, excessive might mean 5 pairs of Jimmy Choo’s and 4 televisions.  Compulsive buyers are likely to carry large amounts of credit card debt and carry multiple card that are all close to their spending limits.

Experiencing Extra Intense Feelings when Shopping

It is completely normal to get a little thrill out of making a good purchase.  Maybe you get happy when you are buying just the right gift or when you finally make a purchase you have been saving up for, but true shopaholics describe the feeling they get as being very much like the high one would get from drugs.  That high drives the compulsive shopper to want more, to spend more, and to ultimately buy more whether it is a sound decision or not.  Shopping addicts are unable to control their urges to shop, just like with other kinds of addictive behaviors.  They have a sense of excitement about the purchase before it is made and the rush of reward once the purchase is completed.

Big Debt and Serious Financial Difficulty

Credit card debt is generally considered to be bad debt whereas the debt accumulated from going to school or buying a house is generally considered good debt.  Good debt can work in your favor.  If you pay on time and work diligently toward paying it down, it can give you credibility when you go to ask for other types of loans.  Bad debt just makes you look like a liability on paper.  If you have mountains of credit card bills on several credit cards and only pay the minimum balance, it is very unlikely that money lenders will take a risk on you.

Shopping addicts often carry large credit card balances that teeter on the brink of being maxed out.  They may have many credit cards that are like this.  While they know the financial complications, they are still unlikely to be able to stop shopping without getting professional help.

Continuing to Shop Regardless of Negative Feelings about Being Addicted to Shopping

People who suffer from a shopping addiction often feel tension and anxiety when they are attempting to resist the urge to shop.  They can also feel depressed and guilty when they have given in to the urge to shop and then again when thy think about their growing debts.  Those feelings of shame and guilt can trigger the shopping addiction and cause the sufferer to seek the high that comes along with making purchases despite the negative consequences.

Compulsive buying can be treated with the proper professional help and the right kinds of therapy.  Eventually, a person who has sought help can learn to resist the urge to make purchases and can start healing – mentally and financially – from being addicted to shopping.

Safeguard Your Mental Health: 5 Ways to Fend Off Depression

Prevent depressionDepression sounds like one of those things that you know a little bit about and you hear about a lot, but is really one of those things that happens to other people.  But it is very possible that you or someone you know can suffer from depression.  Depression can make your regular life very difficult to live.  You do not want eat or move or participate.  Depressions feels like it sucks the life out of you.  When depression is not treated, it effects how you think, behave, and feel.  It can lead to emotional, mental, and physical problems.

Some of the warning signs of depression include:

  • Pain or aching that does not get better
  • Crying more often than normal
  • Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities and life in general
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleeping either too much or not enough
  • Persistent sad feelings
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If there is a history of depression in your family or you have experienced some episodes of depression yourself, there are some things that you can do to safeguard your mental health.

1.  Get Help from a Counselor or a Doctor

Do not allow shame or guilt about your potential condition to hold you back.  If you feel that you have a problem with depression or you are worried that you may eventually have a problem, go see a doctor or a counselor.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  Every year, depression affects millions of people.  And it is treatable.  You have to be willing to take the personal risk and ask for help.

2.  Set up a Routine

Giving yourself a daily schedule to gain some control over your life.  It is up to you to make the schedule and stick to it.  Get up at the same time every day even if you do not have anything you have to do or anywhere you have to be.  Go to bed at the same time every night.  Keeping this schedule will give you some stability.  Keep this schedule until you feel like you are stuck and then make a change.

3.  Exercise

Exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your mind and your body.  People are meant to move.  You do not have to join a gym to get some exercise.  Start slow.  Go for a walk around the block in the morning and the evening.  Borrow a friend’s dog or volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog if that makes walking easier.  Yoga is also a very good option.  Join a studio or practice at home.  Regardless of how you want to exercise, simply get yourself moving.

4.  Try Some New Things

There are lots of adventures out in the world that you have never experienced.  And you do not necessarily have to go very far to experience some new situations.  Think about taking a class in something you think you would enjoy like photography or cooking.  Join a group that does a variety of different kinds of things like hiking, board games, music, and event attendance.  Go to an art museum or a concert.  Get out of your comfort zone.  The chemical makeup of your brain is changed when you do new things.  The levels of dopamine, the pleasure chemical of the brain, are altered by the new activity.

5.  Do More Positive Thinking

When you start to feel helpless or hopeless, think about what is making you feel that way.  Is someone else introducing these feelings?  Are you telling yourself that you are helpless and hopeless?  How do you know that these feelings are true, that you are helpless and hopeless?  If you feel yourself slipping into a depressive state, you may not be able to trust the feelings that you are having.  Start to question them.  When you think you are helpless, challenge that feeling.  Show yourself that you are not helpless, that you can do anything you put your mind to.  When you think you are hopeless, think about all of the ways that you can do good things and make a difference.  If you can make a difference, even a small difference, than there is reason to hope.  Find that small difference and change your thinking.

Six Tips to Stay Sane While Living With an Addict

Anyone who lives with a person suffering from any kind of addiction knows just how difficult that can be.  Addiction impacts the happiness and the health of the entire household. Whether family member or friend, if you decide that you are going to continue living with a person who is suffering from addiction, you will need to find some ways for the problems of the addict and the negativity associated with the addiction to have less of an effect on you, and the rest of the household.

living with an addict

You will also want to learn to create a family dynamic that is supportive of every member of the family. This includes not only the person with the addiction, but the needs of everyone else involved (including yourself).  In the best of all possible worlds, the dynamic created will encourage positive changes and attitudes rather than harmful and negative behaviors, and more importantly, help you and everyone in the household keep from feeling crazy with guilt, anger or sadness.

Here are six solid tips to staying sane while living with an addict.

1.  Let Positivity Rule

When you try to change the behavior of your loved one who has an addiction problem through nagging, threats, punishments, or other attempts at coercion, you are perpetuating a negative cycle.  Your odds of success though these means are very low.  You are trying to change someone who is ultimately responsible for his or her own actions and will not be willing to make changes until he or she is really ready and prepared for making the changes necessary.  By using these negative control tactics, you are creating an unhealthy and uncomfortable environment within your own home.

2.  Do not take the burden on yourself.

You did not give your loved one this addiction.  You are not responsible for his or her actions or behavior.  There is no one to blame in this situation.  As mentioned above, the addicted person is responsible for him or herself.  You should not be feeling guilt or responsibility for the disease of another person.  Letting go of your misplaced guilt and shame can help you focus your energies on the things that you can change and the things that you can make better.

3.  Talk about it.

Trying to hide someone else’s addiction from other members of your family is not going to help any of you.  Talk openly and honestly about the realities and the consequences surrounding addiction.  Try not to get emotional.  Just give the facts and answer any questions that the other people in your household may have.  If you are having trouble with this, seek advice from support groups like Al-Anon or from a trained therapist.  You do not have to do this on your own.

4.  Do not clean up someone else’s mess.

Trying to cover up for someone with an addiction problem is not your job.  If you did not drink the many glass beer bottles that are in your recycling bin than there is no reason for you to worry about doing anything by taking them to the curb.  You do not need to tiptoe around your loved one who is hung-over from a bender the night before.  There is no reason for you to cater to his or her needs either.  You are not responsible for his or her actions

5.  Leave important discussions for another time.

Trying to talk to someone who is drunk or high about something that you feel is important is going to be needlessly difficult and frustrating for you.  It may be a waste of energy.  Try to save these talks for a time when the addicted person is not under the influence. With some people, it may be difficult to find that kind of time, but if the conversation is important enough, it can wait.  However, if the issue is time sensitive, you might want to make the attempt.  If the conversation does not work, you are free to make the decision on your own.  Again, it is not your fault that your loved one could not participate in the decision making process.

6.  Encourage everyone in your family to do other things.

You want everyone in your family to be happy including the person with the addiction problem.  Encourage everyone to take part in hobbies and interests that do not have anything to do with addiction or dealing with addiction.  Your loved one’s addiction should not be the center of every conversation and the only thing that you all think about.  Learning to put it aside and focus on some other activity can be essential for all involved.

The Ultimate Goal is Getting Them Help

Living with an addict is not easy. Watching someone you care about fall victim to drugs and alcohol can cause a lot of stress, anger, resentment and sadness in the household. These six sensible ideas can help make a very difficult situation a little easier on everyone involved. You can use all of these steps to create a happy and healthy environment for your family.  Hopefully, your successes will encourage your loved one with the drug or alcohol problem to make better decisions and change his or her priorities.

Seven Signs That You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Everyone gets nervous or anxious sometimes.  Even the calmest of people are going to get anxious or worried about something at some point.  But at some point, you may feel as though your anxiety comes on too fast and too often to just be the little bit of worry that everyone experiences.  It might even be so forceful that it begins to take over your life.

How can you tell if your anxiety has crossed the line from normal to disorder? 

The answer is not always very clear.  But there are a great many things that do not indicate an anxiety disorder when looked at separately do not indicate an anxiety disorder, but when they are taken together, they could be an indication that you would benefit from some professional help.

Excessive Worry

The staple symptom of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is worrying all the time about all things big and small too much.  “Too much” is a very general statement.  “Too much” can mean having persistent anxiousness on all of the days in a week.  Or “too much” could be persistent anxiousness for most of the days in a month.  “Too much” can also mean that the anxiety you are experiencing becomes so bad that is begins to interfere with the rest of your life.

Irrational Fear

Generalized anxiety disorder is just that; it is general anxiety.  But some anxiety is not general at all.  It can be attached to a specific situation or a specific person, place, or thing.  If the anxiety surrounding this particular person, place, or thing becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and way out of proportion with the actual risk involved, you probably have a phobia.  Generally, phobias do not impede your life until you are confronted with the object of your fear.

Muscle Tension

While muscle tension is not just a sign of an anxiety disorder, it can indicate that a problem is at hand.  Muscle tension associated with anxiety can occur because of:

  • balled fists
  • tight shoulders
  • clenched jaw

Muscle tension is one of those things that if you have lived with it for long enough you are likely not to notice.

Social Anxiety

Another form of anxiety disorder is social anxiety.  The most common signs of social anxiety are a fear of public speaking or a fear of crowded places.  If a person is afraid of public speaking, he or she does not necessarily have social anxiety, but if this fear is so bad that he or she worries in the weeks leading up to the situation, and no amount of practice or coaching can alleviate the fear, then social anxiety is probably the issue.

Self-Consciousness

Social anxiety does not have to involve large groups of people.  Some of the time social anxiety presents itself in everyday situations such as one-on-one conversations or in smaller groups.  People with this kind of social anxiety can experience excessive blushing, trembling, excessive sweating, nausea, or difficulty talking.  These symptoms make it difficult for people who suffer from social anxiety to make new friends, meet new people, maintain relationships, and make career advancements.

Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors

Obsessive compulsive behaviors are more than just wanting things to be perfect and doing them over to make them perfect.  Obsessive compulsive behavior is needing everything to be in perfect order and doing it over and over and over again until you can feel like it is perfect – which may never happen.  Obsessive compulsive disorder can mean that you need to wash your hands until they are red and raw to feel like they are clean enough.  It can also mean that you cannot leave the house without doing all of the things that you need to do in the right order or you have to start over and do it again. Obsessive compulsive disorder can be crippling if left untreated.

Panic Attacks

If you have never experienced it before, a panic attack can be terrifying.  During a panic attack, you are suddenly gripped by an overwhelming feeling of fear and helplessness.  You heart begins to race.  You may feel tingling or numbness in your limbs.  You might get dizzy and weak and need to sit down.  You could feel like you are having trouble breathing.  Not everyone who has a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but it could be a sign that you need to get some help.  Especially if you experience them repeatedly.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms Vary

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder might include all or just a few of those mentioned.  Every person is unique and the way that each person with an anxiety disorder exhibits these symptoms is going to be unique as well.  If you have any questions about whether or not you could have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about your options.

Addiction Psychiatry – Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Mental Illness

If you suffer from a dual diagnosis – a substance abuse disorder along with another concurrent mental illness – then you need treatment from a specialist in addiction psychiatry who understands the unique ways in which another mental illness can contribute to and exacerbate a substance abuse disorder. When you have a dual diagnosis, both your substance abuse disorder and your mental illness have their own unique symptoms that own different symptoms that can impair your day-to-day functioning.

In order to recover from both your mental illness and your substance abuse disorder, you need treatment for both conditions. Your mental illness symptoms will only worsen without treatment, and your substance abuse disorder is likely to get worse too. The more you abuse substances, the more your mental health deteriorates, and the more your mental health deteriorates, the more you abuse substances – it becomes a vicious cycle.

Which Disorder Occurred First?

While substance abuse disorders and other mental illnesses often occur together and can be linked, specialists in the field of addiction psychiatry do not believe that one causes the other. Just because someone has a substance abuse disorder does not mean that he or she will develop another mental illness, and just because someone develops another mental illness does not mean that he or she will develop a substance abuse disorder. However, if you are already at risk for a mental illness, abusing substances can cause symptoms to flare, pushing you into full-blown illness. If you are taking prescription medication to treat mental illness symptoms, illegal drugs and alcohol can interact with those medications, hampering their effectiveness and causing harmful side effects. That’s why specialists in the field of addiction psychiatry recommend that dual diagnosis individuals quit abusing substances at the same time that they seek treatment for a concurrent mental illness.

Do You Have a Dual Diagnosis?

Not everyone who suffers from a substance abuse disorder also has another mental illness, like bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety. Specialists in the field of addiction psychiatry point out that it can take some time to determine whether a person’s mental health symptoms might be directly related to substance abuse, or be due to an underlying disorder.

Just as people who suffer from substance abuse disorders may be in denial about how much their drug and alcohol use is impacting their lives, people who suffer from mental illness may also be in denial about how the true extent and impact of their symptoms. This can make it even harder for a person suffering from a dual diagnosis to get help, since he or she may be afraid or ashamed to admit the problem. The stigma of addiction is a heavy enough burden to bear on its own, without also shouldering the burden of mental illness stigma.

If you enter recovery for a substance abuse disorder and your mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, don’t get better after you’ve been abstinent for a few months, you should consult a specialist in addiction psychiatry about the possibility that you have a dual diagnosis. Some other signs that you have a dual diagnosis include:

  • A family history of mental illness
  • Extreme sensitivity to the effects of drugs and alcohol
  • A relationship between mental health symptoms and substance use – getting depressed when drunk, for example
  • Prior treatment for a mental health problem

If you have any of these risk factors, discuss them with a specialist in addiction psychiatry who understands dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Recovery from dual diagnosis is possible, although it may seem more complicated and difficult than recovery from a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder alone. You may need to spend months or years working on your recovery with a specialist in addiction psychiatry. You need to receive treatment for both your mental illness and your substance abuse disorder.

As a dual diagnosis patient, you may need to use prescription medication, such as antidepressants, to treat your mental illness symptoms while in recovery. Some recovering addicts and recovery support groups frown on the use of these drugs by people in recovery from addiction. Members of the field of addiction psychiatry do not consider the use of antidepressants and other pharmaceutical treatments for mental illness to be substance abuse, at least not when the drugs are prescribed for you by a doctor. Take your drugs as prescribed and don’t worry about what your peers in recovery think.

When you suffer from a dual diagnosis, you need treatment for both conditions in order to get well. With help from the right program, recovery is possible. You will need to work hard and remain committed to your recovery, but the payoff is a life more beautiful than you ever imagined.