Are you addicted to shopping? If you’ve asked yourself this, you need to stop and consider what role shopping and spending play in your life. Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive shopping or compulsive buying disorder, is a type of behavioral addiction that is similar in many ways to drug addiction. Shopping may still be a habit for you, but you need to know what constitutes crossing the line from healthy habit to addiction and how to cross back over.
Compulsive Shopping: A Behavioral Addiction
A behavioral addiction is a behavior or activity that has become like a drug for you. Certain activities, like spending or buying, can provide a short-term reward that promotes the formation of a habit. For instance, you might have a tough day at work, so you go to the shops in the evening and buy yourself a new pair of shoes as a reward for getting through it. The purchase makes you feel good, and the next time you feel bad, you think about shopping to lift your mood. Before long it becomes a habit, if not an addiction.
Shopping Habit or Shopping Addiction?
Having a shopping habit is not necessarily a bad thing. We all have different ways of coping with negative emotions, and shopping may be yours. This is fine if you have it under control and you can afford to comfort yourself with purchases. A shopping habit can become problematic when it gets out of control and enters the world of addiction. How do you know if you have crossed that line? Here are some classic signs of addiction as applied to shopping:
- You think about shopping a lot. Buying new things consumes your attention for a big portion of the day. If you’re not shopping, you’re thinking of when you can go shopping and what you’ll buy next.
- Everything revolves around shopping. You plan other aspects of your life around your need to shop. Your friend wants to go to the movies, but you were planning to go to the mall, so you decline. Your child has a soccer game, but you miss it because you’re absorbed in online shopping.
- Your shopping is out of control. Maybe you go to the mall planning to buy yourself one new item as a treat and you emerge hours later with several bags and hundreds of dollars spent because you couldn’t stop once you got started.
- Shopping is negatively impacting your life. The typical example of this for a compulsive shopper is money. You are spending far more than you can afford to spend. You may also be fighting with your partner over money, and still you spend.
If you can heartily identify with most of these, you have a problem with shopping. If you’re on the border and see yourself heading down this path, you need to make some changes before you get too far into a shopping addiction.
Whether you have a full-blown behavioral addiction or you see just a hint of a problem with your shopping, you can get help and curb your habit now. Set yourself some boundaries and limitations for shopping and see if you can stick to them. Enlist your partner or a friend to help keep you accountable. If you can’t cut back, it’s a sign that you need more help. A counselor experienced with behavioral addictions can guide you through the process of cutting back on shopping and learning better ways to cope with stress and other negative feelings.