The source may not be entirely scientific, but a recent survey of Americans shows that we may be succumbing to addictive behaviors when it comes to shopping. A shopping addiction, sometimes called compulsive shopping, is not quite the same as a chemical addiction to a drug or alcohol, but the results can still be devastating. Shopping compulsively falls under the category of behavioral addictions, which includes things like compulsive gambling or eating, sex addiction, Internet addiction and other activities. Experts will likely always argue about whether these can be termed true addictions, but the truth is that they have many similarities to drug addictions and can be just as devastating if left untreated.
The Indicators of Compulsive Shopping
Shopping when you need something or as an occasional way to treat yourself to something you don’t need is normal. Shopping becomes a compulsive or addictive behavior when it goes beyond what is considered normal. The following are signs that experts agree indicate a problem, if not a full-blown behavioral addiction:
- Buying way too much. This is part of the compulsion. You go into a store because you need a new pair of jeans and you come out with five new pairs of jeans, four pairs of shoes and a couple of dresses. In other words, you have good intentions, but you get carried away
- Going over budget. This goes hand-in-hand with buying much more than you need. When you set out to shop with a budget and blow it big time, you are behaving inappropriately. When you do this often, and your finances begin to suffer, you may have a serious problem.
- Hiding your shopping sprees. Things are not looking good if you buy compulsively, bust your budget, and then out of embarrassment or shame, hide the goods from your partner or other family members. Hiding your credit card accounts so that you can rack up debt without your spouse knowing is also a sign of a problem.
- Harming your relationships. If your spending, shopping, and stores of treasures are putting a strain on your relationships, and you continue to shop anyway, you need to reevaluate your behaviors.
- Buying items on sale just because they’re on sale.
America’s Shopping Addiction
A survey recently conducted by credit card comparison website Credit Donkey revealed some disturbing trends with respect to Americans and our shopping habits. It found that a significant number of people show the signs of having a compulsive shopping problem. For instance, 20 percent of people surveyed admitted to having hidden their purchases from family members, while more than 30 percent said that they had felt guilty or ashamed after shopping. Almost 30 percent of the survey takers said that they frequently or almost always buy items on sale simply because they are on sale. The rush of getting a good deal can be powerful to compulsive shoppers, and the rest of us too. Twenty-five percent of the respondents of the survey have multiple items in their closets with the tags still on, unworn. One thing that shopping addiction has in common with substance abuse is that shopping, like drug use, is often utilized to improve mood. When you’re feeling down, a shopping trip to buy new things makes you feel better. In the survey, 11 percent of the respondents said that they regularly shop to feel better, while nearly half admitted to doing it at least occasionally. Over 47 percent of people described having a rush of excitement from going shopping and making purchases.
Getting Over a Shopping Addiction
The Credit Donkey survey was not a scientific study, but it is telling. It demonstrates that a significant proportion of Americans display some of the troubling signs of compulsive shopping. This does not mean that everyone has a full-blown addiction, but it does remind us to watch our behaviors and to think about how and why we shop. If you recognize of the signs of a shopping addiction, there are steps you can take to change your behaviors. Before you go shopping, think about why you are doing it. If it is an emotional reason, stop and reassess whether you really need the shopping trip. Find healthier alternatives for shopping. When you feel down and want to shop, go work out instead, or meet up with friends for coffee. Get rid of most of your credit cards. Reserve one or two cards for emergency needs only. Enlist a friend or family member to help you stay strong. Go shopping with him instead of alone to help you resist the urge to overspend. By being aware of your behaviors, you are on the path to making changes.