When you think of addiction, you might think about things like IV drugs, cocaine, alcohol, or meth. These are things that society tends to scorn, things that people feel shame and embarrassment. When you see someone who’s a known alcoholic sitting in a bar, you know there’s trouble.
However, addiction isn’t always an ugly thing that hides in the shadows. Sometimes, people have addictions that others consider socially acceptable. One example of this is excessive gambling. Another is a shopping addiction.
But what exactly is a shopping addiction? What separates a healthy love for shopping and a habit that has gone too far? Read on to find out more.
What is Shopping Addiction?
Shopping addiction, or monomania, as it’s referred to clinically, is compulsive buying in order to escape from negative feelings and emotions. It’s a behavioral addiction that can take over your thoughts and create preoccupations that make everyday life difficult.
The Line Between Fun and Addiction
Nearly everyone shops. Every day, we’re bombarded with advertisements that tell us to buy, buy, buy. Nothing escapes this, and it eventually becomes a vicious cycle. Advertisers sell to everyone from the elderly to the infantile. They sell everything from food to clothes to vehicles to insurance policies: there’s no end in sight.
It’s only natural then that we live in a nation of shoppers. However, a study published in the American Journal on Addictions surmised that roughly 6-7% of Americans live with compulsive buying.
This could be in large part because of the rise in online shopping. With this greater access to goods from virtually anywhere in the world comes more spending and more shopping.
But where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between healthy retail therapy and a shopping addiction?
The answer is actually in your emotions. While the shopping and spending habits of a shopping addict and a regular shopper might seem the same on the outside, someone who suffers from addiction will go through a much different process internally.
One of the telltale signs of shopping addiction is when someone starts to plan their shopping down to the minute detail. A shopping addict doesn’t just know what they want to buy, they know their game plan they’ll need to execute in order to buy it as well.
Sometimes this can be as complicated as knowing the exact route from their car to the item they need and then up to the register. Other times it’s as simple as knowing what they’ll say to the person standing behind the counter.
The Pleasure/Guilt Cycle
Many people are familiar with the feeling of buyer’s guilt. We buy something that we really want and then wind up feeling bad about it afterward. However, what shopping addicts experience is much different.
Instead of just feeling glad that they have the item that they wanted, they get an absolute rush. When they’ve got the item in their cart, there’s an itch to buy it and when the final purchase is made, they’ve gotten their fix.
However, whether it’s right away or a few hours later, they will inevitably feel guilt surrounding the purchase. Sometimes this guilt is so severe that they won’t even want to use or look at the item they bought in the first place.
Shopping as Medicine
Often times people will use a shopping addiction in order to make themselves feel better. It often acts as a distraction from deeper problems, like an abusive spouse, a medical condition, or issues at work.
We’ve discussed some of the internal signs that someone might be a shopping addict, now let’s talk about some of the few things that might outwardly indicate that they could have a problem with shopping.
Excessive debts are one sign that a person could struggle with a shopping addiction. A shopping addict might juggle around debts between different debtors in order to maintain their habit. Others might have an alarming number of store credit cards that are always maxed out.
Either way, this path will only lead to debt and, if left unchecked, financial ruin.
Lying About Shopping
Another thing that shopping addicts do is lie about how much shopping they do. They will either lie about whether or not they’ve been shopping or how much an item cost.
This is because while a shopping addiction is socially acceptable to someone outside of the addict’s family, the people who are close to them will be able to see the problem. They’re also most likely to be affected by it. So the addict feels like they have a reason to lie.
Putting Shopping Before Others
Another huge red flag for shopping addiction is when an addict places their shopping over the needs of those that they care for. This can be something as small as buying a trinket instead of buying dog food or something as huge as neglecting to pay for a child’s school uniform in favor of their own shopping habits.
Also, if a person is routinely choosing to go shopping instead of spending time with their friends or family, that could be a sign that they have a problem with shopping.
Do You Have a Shopping Addiction?
If you are trying to determine if you or someone you love deals with a shopping addiction, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.
- Do you shop when you’re upset?
- Does spending money shopping cause issues in your life?
- Do you fight with your loved ones about shopping?
- Do you feel a rush of anxiety or euphoria when you shop?
- Afterward, do you feel embarrassed or guilty?
- Do you fail to use the things you buy?
- Is money always on your mind?
If you’ve answered yes to two or more of these questions, you may have a shopping addiction.
Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness
Shopping addiction is a real issue that many millions of Americans struggle with every single day. If you or someone you love is caught up in the middle of an addiction cycle that they can’t get out of, there is hope.
Talking to a psychologist could be the key you need to unlock yourself from the prison of addiction.
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