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.
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.