It’s the kind of thing someone might jokingly say after a weekend spree at the mall: “What can I say, I have a shopping addiction!”
But it’s true! Shopping addiction is a type of process addiction, and it’s a real possibility. If you’re teetering on the edge of laughing at your habits and crying about the lack of control you feel when it comes to shopping, you might be a shopping addict.
What Is a Shopping Addiction?
As is the case with other process addictions, shopping becomes an addiction when it causes the brain to release the “feel-good” chemicals known as endorphins, plus another chemical called dopamine.
But not only does the brain release these chemicals during shopping, it also craves them more and more.
In other words, when you’re in the middle of a shopping spree, you might feel a euphoric high comparable to what alcoholics or drug addicts feel when consuming their substance of choice. And when you’re not shopping, you feel depressed and moody, maybe even a little panicky, and can’t wait to jump at the chance to shop again.
In fact, your shopping habits might have interfered with your job if you compulsively shop online or stretch the limits of your lunch break at a nearby store. They might have even damaged your relationship with your significant other due to disagreements about spending money, especially if you spend more than you can afford or completely drain your bank account.
Holiday Shopping When You’re Addicted
The remedy for other process addictions, like compulsively gambling or playing video games, often includes abstaining from the activity at all costs. But that isn’t practical with a process addiction like compulsive shopping. After all, everyone has to shop in order to purchase the necessities of life, no matter how mundane they might be.
Not to mention, holiday shopping is a major pastime for many people. Buying and giving gifts is one of the most prominent ways that relationships are celebrated during the holidays. But with a long list of people to buy for, a recovering addict might be staring a relapse in the face.
So what should you do instead?
Try to take a friend with you when you go shopping. Better yet, take two. Hand over your wallet so that you have no money on you. Push the cart, but don’t put anything in it. Talk to your therapist about other boundaries that may be helpful for you to set, such as a time limit. Your friends are there to help enforce those boundaries.
Alternatively, you could come up with new ways to celebrate the holidays that don’t involve shopping. Host the holiday meal and spend your time learning how to cook gourmet food. A delicious feast could be your gift to all of your loved ones. Or, learn how to make a gift by hand, such as knitting a scarf.
The sooner you redefine the holidays in order to take the focus off of shopping, the happier you will be as you recover from a shopping addiction.