Can you really be shopping addicted? Since you're searching for this on the internet, chances are you feel you've reached a point of no return. You probably want some answers.
I'm so glad you've landed on this page. I can only imagine how tough life must have become for you and how scarily out of control your shopping habit feels. And I wouldn't be surprised if you're feeling quite alone with it all.
It is, of course, possible that you're the partner (or other loved one) of someone who's shopping addicted. In which case, I'm chuffed that you're looking for ways to help! Read on, knowing that I'm addressing the person suffering from shopping addiction, but that this article is for you too.
If you're addicted to shopping, I’m going to...
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) doesn't recognise shopping addiction as such. But here's what it has to say about addictions in general:
"Addiction is a chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance. About half the risk for addiction is genetic. "
(I'll unpick these elements for you one by one further down.)
Let's now look at the signs and symptoms of a shopping addiction.
Shopping becomes an addiction when someone continues to seek excessive and detrimental retail therapy despite the damage it’s causing.
Since you're here, I’m guessing that you're already fairly sure you're shopping addicted.
How much you must have been suffering, being unable to stop yourself shopping despite the devastation it's causing.
How do I know that?
Because I’m a qualified counsellor with over 24 years’ experience of helping people with all kinds of emotional and psychological problems. And I’m on your side :-)
I suspect you’ll recognise much of the following:
And yet you continue to feel overwhelmed by that craving and compulsion to go out or get online and buy, buy, buy.
Know that your addiction to shopping follows the same pattern as any kind of addiction. It's the same process as for drugs, gambling or drinking (to name but a few).
Specific brain areas get flushed with feel-good chemicals when you indulge in your favourite activity. These chemicals are the pleasure hormone dopamine and neurotransmitters, which pass message between nerve cells, called endorphins. The temporary high from your purchases is the ultimate reward.
Since that emotional reward felt so good, you're compelled to experience it again and again. But your brain starts to get used to the feeling and it becomes less rewarding, meaning you crave a bigger and bigger hit each time.
Shopping relieves you of the pressure caused by your craving and/or compulsion to get out or get online and buy. Simultaneously, you also escape whatever it was that was bothering you at the time.
The reward becomes increasingly difficult to achieve and the craving ever more overwhelming and demanding. You'll do anything to get that temporary high again to escape that pressure.
As the addiction takes hold, the pattern of craving and reward becomes more and more destructive. The cravings become more intense and frequent, driving you to increasingly extreme measures to satisfy that need.
Now for the signs...
Take the interactive test below to find out if retail therapy is becoming dangerous for you…
Identifying the type of compulsive shopper you are can help you to focus your efforts in the battle to beat your craving for retail therapy.
Your shopping addiction is likely to be fuelled by one of the following:
If you're addicted to spending and buying, I know you’ll be having a really tough time. And you're likely to be very aware that you can’t afford to carry on like this.
There's a chance that you didn't watch the video to the end because you're just not ready yet to be confronted with it all.
Or maybe you're still trying to convince yourself (and everybody else) that the problem really isn’t that bad...
Denial is a very common aspect of any addiction (such as, for example with sex addiction).
Don't for a minute think, though, that I'm judging you.
I'm just so pleased that you've reached this point - however desolate and beaten you're likely to feel right now. I'm glad that you're here now and reading all this. You're truly to be commended for this huge effort and potentially the start of your recovery.
Take comfort from the fact that denial is a natural defence. It tries to protect you from the hard truth about how much you’re hurting and why.
Your shopping addiction may well have started by simply enjoying the occasional purchase.
At some point you would have consciously realised that it brought some relief. It felt great to be able to switch your thoughts from whatever was bothering you to something that felt so pleasant.
The precise mixture of creating good feelings and switching off the bad ones is very individual. That process is also partly unconscious - you're not consciously aware of what happens in your brain.
But below the surface - and behind those feelings - lies a set of subconscious needs that we all share as human beings. And it’s when those innate, essential needs aren’t met in balance that emotional and psychological problems start to arise.
Here are just some of our needs:
To learn more about our essential needs and the inborn resources we have to meet them, take a look at this article: The Human Givens
... to help you discover if and how your emotional needs are being met. Click the link to download the Emotional Needs Worksheet.
The reward triggered in the brain by shopping can provide an escape from all kinds of problems and difficult feelings. Therefore, if you want to overcome your addiction you first need to understand what you’re trying to escape.
Here are some examples to help you think about what’s really going on for you right now.
You may have become addicted because maybe you are:
You can see that there's likely to be more to your spending habits than you might have thought when you started reading this article. Maybe you've already become aware of what your particular underlying problem is.
Remember, professional help is at hand, right from this site. Hop over to my article on how to connect with a licensed therapist now.
For further information on how to help you overcome your shopping addiction, hop over to Part 2 of this article.
I really hope this article is of help to you. :-)
I frequently update my articles based on feedback, therefore I really value your vote.
Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)
“GoodTherapy.org.” Therapy for Schizophrenia, Therapist For, GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog, www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/compulsive-shopping. Accessed 9 Sept. 2018.