From Shopaholic to Addict?

Do the following questions resonate with you?

  • I shop and buy things to improve my mood
  • I’m constantly thinking about shopping, and what I want to buy next
  • I shop so much it gets in the way of my obligations such as school/family/work
  • I need to shop more than I used to, to feel good
  • I shop so much it gets in the way of my well-being
  • If something prevents me from shopping or buying something, it makes me feel bad
  • I’ve decided to shop less, but have not been able to stop

If many of the above statements sound true to you, you may have a shopping addiction. While the term “shopaholic” is used lightly by many, it is a real condition that can have negative effects. Excessive shopping leads to debt, depression and long term lifestyle challenges.

New research shows that shopaholics demonstrate many of the same symptoms as alcoholics and substance abusers. Loss of control, craving and increasing tolerance with the need to repeat the behavior to get relief, are concerning signs.

Who is at Risk?

Extroverts who place high value on the attention of others, and believe they constantly need to have a new outfit or object to display, may feel compelled to shop excessively. Feelings of inadequacy may arise if shopping is stopped.

Individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to believe that shopping and possessing certain objects will make them feel better and be more attractive to others.

shutterstock_150090437Anxiety contributes to excessive shopping, as it’s a way to escape from negative feelings and get a sense of positive reinforcement from external objects. At the same time, excessive shopping leads to increased feelings of anxiety as debt and conflict from the addiction emerge.

Treating Shopping Addiction

When there is any type of addiction, anxiety or depression it’s important to seek help from a licensed medical provider. Anti-depressants, counseling and facing the underlying issues that lead to focusing on external objects as a way to measure one’s personal value, can help.

The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

Cecilie Andreassen et al., The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale: reliability and validity of a brief screening test, Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01374, published 29 September 2015.

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