Whether it’s a new item of clothing or the latest piece of tech, the majority of people feel the urge to splurge now and again. Many people enjoy shopping and often over-indulge or spend more than expected. Still, this behaviour is not categorised as an addiction. A shopping addiction is a compulsive behaviour to shop with little control over how much money you’re spending. This not only restricts an addict to going to a shopping centre and overspending; some may develop an online shopping addiction and make many purchases from their own home.
Concerning other addictive substances, such as alcohol or cigarettes, advertisements are either regulated or banned. Whereas there are no regulations around advertisements for shopping, and ads often promote that buying products leads to happiness.
Reasons a person may become addicted to shopping
When indulging in a shopping spree, an addict may experience a high like when an alcoholic drinks or when a gambler places a bet. After more engagement in the behaviour, addicts will have to spend more to experience the same high or level of excitement, thus increasing the addiction and further financial difficulty.
When shopping addictions first became recognised, addicts would have to travel to shops and shopping centres to satisfy their cravings. Due to a vast number of shops having items available online, and the majority of people having internet access on their phones, online shopping is more comfortable and accessible than ever. Addicts can spend unlimited amounts of money online without the fear or embarrassment of seeing others. The temptation for someone with online shopping addiction to relapse may be more prevalent due to tailored advertisements around addicts’ personal preferences.
Although a shopping addiction is more common in women, men also develop the addiction too.
The effects of a shopping addiction
Like a gambling or video game addiction, a shopping addiction is a behavioural disorder. A buyer will use shopping as a way to mask or avoid negative feelings. Despite the fact that enjoying shopping is a normal, socially acceptable behaviour, a shopping addiction can have detrimental impacts on addicts’ lives. In the short-term, after the excitement of completing a shopping spree wears off, addicts may experience feelings of guilt, stress, and anxiety. Long term, many shopping addicts face financial problems and debt. This may vary in severity from maxed out credit cards to taking out loans to afford more purchases. This can then lead to a knock-on effect on family, children, and any other people who are financially dependent on the addict.
The overwhelming stress and guilt that addicts face after splurging can also result in mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.
Symptoms of a shopping addiction
It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between someone who enjoys shopping and someone with a shopping addiction, especially if the addict is in denial. Some emotional symptoms you may notice from a shopping addict include:
- Anxiety around shopping, either before going shopping, before making a purchase, or when the next shopping trip may be
- Shopping used as a way to ignore or escape issues
- Spending more than what is affordable to the addict
- Relief or a high after a purchase, followed by guilt or shame later
- A loss of control of shopping behaviour
Unlike an alcohol or drug addiction, it is difficult to completely remove triggers or temptations from a shopping addict’s life. Cognitive behavioural therapy will help addicts to control their behaviour and redevelop a healthy relationship with shopping.
For more information on the treatments services offered by Charterhouse Clinic for shopping addiction, please visit our shopping addiction treatment page.