woman holding shopping bags

Compulsive Shopping

Shopping Addiction Treatment at Promises

When people consistently overbuy or buy things that aren’t needed or even wanted, it’s often a sign that there’s a bigger problem. Seeking out warehouse bargains or the unbelievable sale at the department store doesn’t mean a person is headed toward becoming a compulsive shopper/spender. But excessive accumulated items, exceeding one’s credit card limit, and the inability to resist the urge to shop may indicate that a person is at risk for shopping addiction.

Compulsive shopping and spending is associated with other types of disorders, particularly mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, and other disorders of impulse control. At Promises, we provide shopping addiction help for individuals when these issues co-occur with a substance use disorder, eating disorder or other mental health disorder.

What Is Compulsive Shopping/Spending?

Compulsive shopping and spending, also known as compulsive buying disorder (CBD), is characterized by excessive shopping and buying behavior that leads to emotional distress or impairment. A study by Stanford Medicine researchers published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2006) reported that more than one in 20 Americans are compulsive shoppers. Women are more likely to say they enjoy shopping, whereas men tend to say they collect. Other surveys have found a nearly equal percentage of men and women met criteria for compulsive shopping and spending.

Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

There are four distinct phases of compulsive shopping and spending: anticipation, preparation, shopping and spending.

Symptoms of compulsive shopping/spending include:

Shopping alone – People with compulsive shopping/spending tend to shop by themselves, although some will shop with friends who share shopping interests. The general consensus is that compulsive shopping is a private pleasure that could result in embarrassment if someone without such an intense interest in shopping accompanies them.

Shopping anywhere – Compulsive shoppers will shop at any location, from high fashion to discount outlet to garage sales to online.

Income level irrelevant – There is no distinction between income levels when it comes to the compulsive shopper/spender, although those with lower incomes are more likely to shop bargain/thrift/consignment shops than department stores.

Typical items purchased – Studies have found that compulsive shoppers/spenders purchase the following items in descending order: clothing, shoes, CDs, jewelry, cosmetics and household items.

Buying in quantity – While most items purchased aren’t necessarily that expensive, the compulsive shopper/spender often buys in quantity, rationalizing that it looked good or was a bargain.

Occurs year-round – Compulsive shopping knows no down time on the calendar, occurring year-round. It often tends to ratchet up and become a problem during Christmas and other important holidays or around the birthdays of family members or friends.

Causes of Compulsive Shopping/Spending

Some researchers believe that the desire to acquire objects is a way of dealing with chaos and the feeling of being out of control. A person buys an item and feels in control of what they’ve just bought, regardless of whether they need it, already have a similar item or can’t afford it.

Shopping addiction tends to run in families, and these families often have individuals with mood and substance use disorders. A study published in World Psychiatry in 2007 found that of 18 individuals with compulsive shopping and spending, 17 had one or more first-degree relatives with major depression, 11 with substance abuse, and three with an anxiety disorder.

Experts say that compulsive shopping and spending may have its origins in childhood, where parents gave presents to their children instead of attention. Growing up, the child sought more material possessions as a means of self-validation.

Age of onset appears to be in the late teens or early twenties, which often corresponds with a child leaving home and the age at which a person establishes credit and gets one or more credit cards.

For some people who suffered emotional or financial deprivation, buying things makes them feel that they’ve passed beyond that unfortunate time. They often buy much more than they need just so they’re adequately stocked and will never go without.

Compulsive shopping and spending often co-exist with substance abuse and eating disorders.

Shopping Addiction Treatment

While psychologists generally view compulsive shopping and spending as a process addiction, it’s more an issue of impulse control than a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder. Medications used in the treatment of OCD generally don’t work as well for compulsive shopping and spending.

At Promises, our licensed, trained professionals utilize a combination of CBT and other therapies to help people with addictions and mental health issues who also suffer from compulsive shopping behaviors learn how to cope with emotions. Debtors Anonymous and marital therapy are other techniques our clients may find helpful in the management of compulsive shopping and spending.

Take Back Your Life

If you think you need shopping addiction help and are struggling with substance abuse or other mental health issues, we can help. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation: 844-876-5568

To learn more about Compulsive Shopping, call 844-876-5568

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