What is compulsive shopping / shopping addiction?
As with all behavioural addictions, compulsive shopping differs from heavy shopping in that it sits on the other side of a thin grey line in terms of ‘how much is too much?’.
In line with all addictions though, the easier diagnostic element has to do with the powerlessness and the resultant unmanageability that compulsive shoppers display. Because of this their pattern of shopping is different to that of heavy shoppers. Compulsive shopping has been linked to social, psychological and financial problems. Some studies have linked compulsive shopping to an increased risk of suicide as debt increases, as does the shame of attempting to hide the problem from others.
Men are almost as likely as women to be compulsive shoppers. The problem of compulsive shopping seems to begin during the teens or early 20s. Men tend to focus more on gadgets, technical items, CDs, tools, books and cameras and can become compulsive collectors and addicted to auctions.
Behaviours that might indicate you are struggling with a shopping addiction
Here’s a checklist of behaviours that may indicate that you are a compulsive shopper:
When you buy in a shop, the high you initially feel soon fades and you need to spend again.
Spending more than your budget on a regular basis.
Always looking for the next credit card you can have
Always needing to buy the best before you can feel good about yourself (e.g. feeling you must have designer clothes rather than unbranded).
Often spending online, because somehow that doesn’t seem real.
Hiding goods that you have bought.
Sometimes not even using the goods you have bought.
Paying the whole bill in a restaurant in order to show off or gain approval.
Spending in secret may involve not telling your partner for months on end.
Failing to acknowledge debt but nevertheless continuing to overspend.
Asking friends and family for money and then avoiding them because you can’t pay it back.
Taking out more loans regardless of high interest rates to help with previous ones
The amount of money spent causes arguments at home
Thoughts and feelings that might indicate you are a compulsive shopper
If you experience any of the following then it is possible that you might be struggloing with a shopping addiction:
Lying to yourself about how much you have spent.
Feeling sweating and a fast heart rate when bills come.
Feeling grown up when you spend.
Feeling that spending doesn’t matter because someone else will take care of your finances for you
Feeling frightened to open bank statements.
Not thinking through consequences of spending, preferring to convince yourself that somehow it will be all right.
Feeling of dread when it’s necessary to apply for credit rating.
Fantasizing that the big break will come and soon you’ll no longer be in this mess..
Feeling inordinately uncomfortable in a normal discussion about money.
Feeling guilty and ashamed after shopping.
Checklist to help you decide if you are a compulsive shopper
The following list covers many of the diagnostic requirements for compulsive shopping. I encourage you to go through it and see how many points apply to you. This is not designed to yield a ‘diagnosis’, but if you tick a fair number of these boxes then you might need to seek professional help.
Have your shopping habits created problems in your life, such as causing you to worry about how you will pay your bills?
Do you have stacks of books you never read, piles of clothing you haven’t worn, or heaps of music CDs you haven’t played?
After returning from shopping, do you feel guilty, regretful, or embarrassed?
Do you feel ‘lost’ without credit cards?
Do you go shopping whenever you are feeling bad, angry, or frustrated?
Do you hide from your friends and family how much you spend?
Do you hide some of your purchases from others?
Do you have to spend a lot of time figuring out how you will pay your shopping bills?
Do you buy things you don’t need and can’t afford?
When you are shopping, do you feel like you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing?
Have your shopping habits caused conflicts between you and your spouse, a relative or a friend?
Do you make purchases with your credit card that you can’t pay for with cash?
When you shop, do you have mixed feelings of euphoria and anxiety?
Do you buy several books, blouses, or pairs of shoes at a time?
Do you spend money you expect to receive before you receive it?
Are you always thinking about money, how much or little you have, and go shopping again?
Have you tried to change and found you couldn’t?
Would you be better off if you shopped less?