With the holidays on the horizon, there’s a very good chance you’re going to have one of those moments where you look at your credit card bill or you look at the pile of boxes at your feet and think, “How did I manage to buy so much?”
Over-shopping happens. We get caught up in the moment and suddenly a single purchase is a dozen purchases and our budget has been officially blown. It’s not good, but it happens.
But what if it keeps happening? For many people, sprees and splurges aren’t just occasional mistakes; they’re signs of a very real problem with shopping.
Compulsive shopping is similar to most other addictions in that shopping causes the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain. Essentially, the addiction is not to the behavior, but to the feeling the behavior gives you.
That addiction can manifest in a number of ways. If you feel that any of the following signs describe your behavior, please consider seeking professional assistance. The best course of action to deal with any addiction is to speak with a qualified therapist.
Shopping makes you feel better
Compulsive shoppers often turn to shopping during periods of sadness, anxiety, or depression. Due to the nature of addiction, it’s even possible that those periods of low feeling are actually caused by shopping (specifically the lack of shopping). As in most scenarios, a single instance of shopping to relieve negative feelings isn’t necessarily indicative of a shopping problem. However, if you are consistently shopping to improve your mood, you may be suffering from a shopping addiction.
Shopping creates a cycle of guilt and relief
Taking things a step further, if you recognize that you are shopping too much, that may cause you to feel guilty or anxious. In order to escape those feelings of guilt and anxiety, you shop again, which provides temporary relief, but later leads to even greater feelings of despair. This sort of cycle can be incredibly destructive.
Hiding part or all of your shopping from others
If you find yourself hiding purchases from your spouse or other loved ones, that may be a sign of addiction. Downplaying how much was spent or what was purchased usually means that you recognize you’ve made purchases that are potentially damaging. It’s a sign that you know you shouldn’t be buying the things you’re buying, but can’t help yourself.
Shopping despite the damage it causes to your relationships
If your shopping is causing a rift in your relationships, that’s a clear sign of a problem. Even worse, however, is when you’re aware of the destructive nature of your shopping, but can’t (or won’t) do anything to stop it.
Buying things you never use
If you’re buying items that you never use – and never really intend to use – then you know that you’re shopping for the sake of shopping. The purchases are irrelevant, because your addiction is to the process of shopping, not the actual items you’re purchasing. Making a few regrettable purchases is normal, but if your closet is filling up with unopened boxes, that’s a sign of a problem.
Buying and returning and buying and returning
Some compulsive shoppers behave similarly to bulimics, in that they go on a shopping binge, then purge by returning everything they bought. Financially, things might even out this way, but it’s still a potentially very damaging cycle and, at the very least, suggests an unhealthy relationship with shopping.
Buying the deals
Being a bargain hunter is a smart shopping strategy. Some people, though, are compelled to buy “good deals” regardless of their interest in the actual item. If you are consistently buying things because “It was on sale” or “It was a great deal”, but you don’t actually need or want those things, that is a problem.
Buying one in every color
For some people, compulsive shopping manifests as an intense need to create complete sets. These “collectors” are driven to buy every item in a set or every variation of an item. Collecting can be a perfectly harmless hobby, but when it becomes a compulsion it can create an enormous amount of financial and psychological distress.
Ultimately, the most immediate and telling sign that you may be dealing with an addiction is that you don’t feel in control of your shopping. You want to stop, but you can’t. You know it’s a problem, but you can’t seem to do anything about it.
If your shopping habits feel like a problem, then there’s a very good chance they are. If you think you may be dealing with an addiction to shopping, please speak with a qualified therapist.