To many, an addiction to shopping sprouts images of some glitzy and glamorous trip to the mall, kitted with your most fashionable shoes, and all the bags that you can carry. Looking fab and feeling glam. Well sadly this is not the reality of a shopping addiction. A shopping addiction may sound all hairy-fairy and something to be had by the rich and famous, but let me assure you, it’s not an ailment that treats its victims very kindly at all. Racking up credit card bills, overspending, feelings of guilt, despair, anger, and depression, broken relationships and ruined lives, are all the signs of a serious and out-of-control shopping addiction.
Shopping Addiction and its Many Faces
The technical term for shopping addiction is Omniomania, and means quite simply, compulsive shopping. Omniomania is perhaps the most socially reinforced of all the behavioural addictions, and is characterised by a widespread desire to shop and purchase items, despite having no need for them. Shopping has become a rather social event, participated in by families and friends as something to do, and to fulfil negative emotional voids. Have you noticed how when you are feeling down, someone always says to you, “Go out and buy yourself something nice. It’ll make you feel better.” This filling of a negative emotional void within through shopping can, over the long run, lead to a compulsive shopping habit.
Per Ruth Engs, a professor from Indiana University, some people develop a shopping addiction because of how the brain feels during the event. Releasing endorphins and dopamine making you feel good, and over time these feelings can become addictive.
According to Shopaholics Anonymous, there are several different types of shopaholics. They are as follows:
- Compulsive Shopaholics – shop when they are feeling emotional distress
- Trophy Shopaholics – are always shopping for the perfect item
- Big Spender Image – shopaholics often wan to have the image of being “the big spender”
- Bargain Seekers – purchase items they don’t need just because they were on sale
- Bulimic Shoppers – get caught in a vicious cycle of buying and returning
- Collectors – do not feel complete until they have one item in each colour or every piece of a set
Understanding and Recognising a Compulsive Shopper
Omniomania, the irresistible desire to shop, affects, according to research by World Psychiatry, 80% more women than it does men. More commonly known as shopaholics, these individuals are often overly focused on buying, and suffer from disruptive anxiety that can only be relieved by shopping. People that have to deal with a compulsive buying disorder are more often than not, dual diagnosed with other mental issues, such as: mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. According to a study done by Columbia University, shopping addicts usually feel guilt, anger, and/or sadness following their initial shopping euphoria, and can create an unhealthy cycle of shopping, guilt, shopping, guilt. Being able to recognise the tell-tale signs of a shopping addict is a great way to be able to spot the signs and symptoms of the problem. Some signs of shopping addiction include:
- Overspending – compulsive shoppers are constantly overspending, and may even take money from budgeted expenses to satisfy their cravings.
- Compulsive Purchases – if an item is bought in excess, like 5 pairs of shoes as oppose to one, there could be a problem there.
- Chronic Shopping – constantly overspending is a big problem when it comes to a compulsive shopping habit, and may be a sign of chronic shopping problem.
- Lying About the Problem – having to constantly lie about spending and shopping habits is a clear red flag, and one that deserves immediate attention.
- Broken Relationships – shopping habits that lead to, or are the cause of, a broken relationship is a sure sign that an issue is afoot. The desire to keep the habit alive is greater than the need for the relationship, or so it seems.
- Consequences Don’t Help – the consequences of a shopping addiction are far-reaching and could have detrimental effects for all those involved. These consequences include financial and relationship troubles, regret, depression, guilt, and possibly even suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Dealing with, or helping someone deal with a shopping addiction, is something that requires time, patience, and dedication. The untold misery that can stem from such an addiction can leave families broken and bare, with no money and shattered lives. Getting the professional help that you or your loved ones deserve can be found through the loving and guided support offered by Twin Rivers Rehabilitation Centre in Plettenberg Bay. Don’t let the addictions of others run and ruin your life and theirs. Get the help and support that you both deserve, and give back the love that is so readily needed.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process