How to Find Help Treating a Shopaholic
Giving in to the occasional impulse buy is normal. After all, the majority of people enjoy shopping. The problem occurs when you or someone you know has succumbed to obsessive shopping. When it happens to you, a negative change in your spending habits is noticeable. For instance, you are likely tempted to dash off to the mall to buy items you don’t really need. Being constantly exposed to shopping ads on TV and the Internet makes things even worse. If you think you or a loved one is showing the telltale signs of compulsive buying or shopping addiction, you should seek treatment before the situation worsens.
Understanding Compulsive Shopping
The irresistible desire to shop is known as compulsive buying disorder or oniomania. According to a research by World Psychiatry, 5.8 percent of Americans are afflicted with the disorder, with women comprising 80 percent of the total number of affected individuals. Commonly known as shopaholics, these people are overly focused on buying and suffer from disruptive anxiety that can only be relieved by shopping. People with compulsive buying disorder are also likely to have other mental issues, including mood disorders, anxiety and substance addictions.
How to Diagnose an Addiction to Shopping (or Shopaholism)
Ruling out normal buying behavior is important. Given that the US and other wealthy industrialized countries have citizens whose leisure time is often spent on shopping, spending a lot of time shopping does not necessarily mean a shopping addiction. The holiday season, for instance, is often a common time for people to splurge on things that are normally outside their budgets. Shopping sprees are also common among people who have recently acquired a large inheritance or won a significant sum of money. As such, the apparent impulsive buying done by these people does not necessarily constitute an addiction to shopping.
How to Recognize a Shopaholic
Identifying if someone is affected by a shopping problem can be achieved by referring to the signs listed below. Manifesting four or more of these behaviors possibly points to shopaholism:
- Spending over your budget
- Buying more than what is needed
- Keeping the excessive buy a secret from friends and family
- Returning bought items because of guilt
- Alienating relationships due to a shopping preoccupation
- Preferring the use of credit cards to cash
- Shopping in order to eliminate feelings of anger, depression or loneliness
- Arguing frequently with other people about your shopping habits
- Experiencing guilt and shame after a spending spree
- Mulling over money matters
- Delaying paying bills and opening new credit accounts to allow more shopping
Steps You Can Take to Help Someone With Compulsive Buying
When you recognize that someone is dealing with shopping addiction, several measures are available to help manage the disorder. Your presence and advice are very important during the whole process, especially when you’re a parent trying to assist your teen in overcoming addiction. The road to recovery isn’t an easy path, which means patience is needed.
Talking to a Shopaholic
One essential step to curb compulsive buying is to avoid scenarios that can lead to shopping binges. Indiana University professor Ruth Engs compiled a list of these possible situations. For instance, convince the shopaholic to enter a store with a shopping list in hand, instead of arriving unprepared. All credit cards must be paid off, cancelled and destroyed, save one that must only be used for emergencies. Furthermore, talk the affected person out of carrying a wallet all the time. After all, without financial means, the temptation to shop cannot be fulfilled.
Adolescents and Teens
If you are a parent or responsible adult helping out a teenager, the first step is to get the child to acknowledge the problem. You can expect the teen to deny the addiction, hence the need to be persistent. Convincing your child to open up is usually the best tactic. You can also point your teen to other activities that do not involve shopping. Exercising, jogging, reading and listening to music are just a few examples of healthy ways to keep your child occupied.
Learning to Cope With Shopping Addiction
To successfully deal with shopaholism, knowing what goes in the mind of an affected individual is important. Contrary to popular belief, shopping addicts are not always easygoing young women who are only concerned about the latest shoes and handbags. Truth be told, the shopaholic often suffers from emotional problems, has low self-esteem, and desires the approval of other people. Positive encouragement is a great way to help the addict follow constructive advice. Let the person realize that self-worth is not related to the items that they buy.
A shopping addict also has trouble controlling impulsive behavior, which can be addressed by dealing with the underlying issues. Finally, the shopaholic often has a profound sense of materialism, with the assumption that affection and admiration can also be bought. A real social connection with other people helps to reduce this problem.
How to Treat Shopping Addicts
According to WebMD, the origin of addictions remains unknown, although some evidence indicates that the addictive behavior may be partially exacerbated by genetics. As such, no standard treatments for shopping addiction are available, and current treatments involve a couple of sophisticated approaches. For instance, antidepressants may be prescribed to shopping addicts who have also been diagnosed with underlying depression. Therapy, on the other hand, involves addressing maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes. Support groups and credit counseling are also used in dealing with shopaholism.
Deciding Between Shopping Addiction Solutions
Different people respond well to different therapies. For changing unproductive thought patterns, such as negative thoughts that influence the behavior regarding money and shopping, one approach may involve cognitive behavioral therapy.
Sharing experiences with people in an empathetic atmosphere is available via Debtors Anonymous, an organization that offers a free 12-step program for people who want to stop acquiring unsecured debt. If you prefer self-help, you can buy books or join online support communities. For help in managing debts, you can try credit counseling. Companies who offer this service also have debt management plans to help you create reasonable payment arrangements with your creditors.
Where to Find Shopping Addiction Treatment for a Friend or Family Member
If your own efforts are not working and you want to seek outside help, you can consult professionals or organizations to treat shopping addiction. You can call us at to discuss treatment options. Remember, recovery begins with acknowledging the addiction and seeking help.
Given all the personal and professional measures available, overcoming shopaholism is entirely possible. On the other hand, breaking free from this insatiable need to spend requires time and effort. You can’t expect recovery to happen in a few days. In fact, temptations and relapses can happen while attempting to change for the better. Patience and perseverance are essential when trying to defeat your addiction. Give us a call at to start the recovery process.