Compulsive shopping is an addiction type of shopping that significantly interferes with the functioning of the individual. The signs are a preoccupation with shopping, anxiety when not shopping, a constant need for a shopping “fix,” shopping to excess that results in debt and family or marital discord, and the frequent purchase of items that go unused.
Signs of Compulsive Shopping and Spending
Behaviors typical of compulsive spending include the following:
- Shopping or spending money as a result of feeling disappointed, angry, or scared
- Shopping or spending habits causing emotional distress in one’s life
- Having arguments with others about one’s shopping or spending habits
- Feeling lost without credit cards
- Buying items on credit that would not be bought with cash
- Feeling a rush of euphoria and anxiety when spending money
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, or confused after shopping or spending money
- Lying to others about purchases made or how much money was spent
- Thinking excessively about money
- Spending a lot of time juggling accounts or bills to accommodate spending
Identification of four or more of the above behaviors indicates a possible problem with shopping or spending. It is important to clearly identify multiple behaviors before determining if treatment is needed. There is a great difference between compulsive shopping becoming an addictive behavior and the occasional binge shopping spree that might leave you feeling a little guilty.
Effects of Compulsive Spending
It is important to be able to identify the typical behaviors of compulsive spending in order to best know the full effects this addiction might have on a person and family. The effects of compulsive spending usually are greatly related to the personal relationships of the addict and the financial accounts. The effects may not be as physically noticeable compared to a drug addict but the effects are just as serious.
Relational Effects of Compulsive Shopping
Compulsive shopping or spending may result in interpersonal, occupational, family, and financial problems in one’s life. In many ways, the consequences of this behavior are similar to that of any other addiction.
Impairment in relationships may occur as a result of excessive spending and efforts to cover up debt or purchases. Persons who engage in compulsive shopping or spending may become preoccupied with that behavior and spend less and less time with important people in their lives. They may experience anxiety or depression as a result of spending or shopping which may interfere with work or school performance. It is also common for an addict to begin lying and hiding their purchases from their family and keeping their charges to themselves.
Emotional Effects of Compulsive Shopping
The shopping and spending activity itself is associated with a feeling of happiness and power which is immediately gratifying. The after-effects of remorse and guilt drive the spender back to purchase again to be able to achieve that brief but intense emotional high. Research has shown that many compulsive shoppers and spenders also suffer from mood disorders, substance abuse, or eating disorders. As with any addiction, the person becomes dependent on the behavior to relieve negative feelings that cause them distress and discomfort.
Financial Effects of Compulsive Shopping
Financial problems may occur if money is borrowed or there is excessive use of credit to make purchases. Often the extent of the financial damage is discovered only after the shopper or spender has accumulated a large debt that necessitates a drastic change in lifestyle to resolve. Recovery groups such as Debtors Anonymous have been formed to help compulsive shoppers and spenders return to normal, appropriate patterns of buying.