The serious side: Identifying problems and finding help to step away from the mall

by Nick on September 15, 2010

This guest post was written by Go Banking Rates, bringing you informative personal finance content and helpful tools, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide.

Sure, we all have that one thing we tend to spend too much on. For some it’s an amazing pair of shoes, for others it’s whatever electronic gizmo that’s buzzing in the tech world. While its easy to joke that we’re “addicted” to shopping, it’s important to realize that many people actually are.

A shopping addiction can be detrimental to not only your finances, but overall quality of life as well. If you suspect your desire to shop is becoming more of a compulsion than a pastime, it’s time to get help.

The Mind of a Shopaholic

The problem of shopping addiction falls in line with the major characteristic of any addiction, which is that it negatively affects day-to-day life. Shopping addicts don’t just love to buy things, they feel an intense need to spend money on certain items, even if they can’t afford to or don’t really want or need what they’re purchasing.

Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine explains, “Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as inappropriate, excessive, and out of control…Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses.”

Signs of an Addiction to Shopping

There are many signs that point to a shopping addiction. If you deal with any of the following issues, it may be time to seek treatment:

1. Overspending

This one might seem like a stretch; after all, almost everyone has gone overboard with spending at one time or another. The key here, however, is habitually breaking your budget. All of the problems a shopping addict faces stem from the fact that he or she is spending money that isn’t really available.

2. Compulsion

As mentioned above, an addict feels an uncontrollable urge to participate in the addictive behavior. A shopping addict may go to the store to buy a new sweater and come home with one in every color.

3. Euphoria Followed by Shame

As with any addiction, the act of buying an item is accompanied by a rush or “high.” This is the feeling that addicts strive to replicate by spending again and again. However, once this state of euphoria diminishes, it is replaced by feelings of shame and guilt.

4. Hiding Spending

Due to the fact that shopping addiction often results in a poor financial situation and remorse, addicts attempt to hide their harmful behavior from others. This is especially true in the case of romantic relationships when one person’s financial situation can greatly affect the other’s.

5. Strained Relationships

Of course, a prolonged addiction to spending money can’t be disguised forever. When friends and family members become aware of the issue, stress is usually placed on those relationships, either because the addict is frequently dishonest, the addictive behaviors are beginning to cause problems for others or both.

6. Negative Financial Repercussions

Overspending can only go on for so long before a hefty amount of debt accumulates and the addict is pursued by creditors and financial institutions. This is when the addiction goes from a concern to a serious issue.

If you feel like any of the above scenarios describe your situation as well, participating in treatment of some sort can assist you in overcoming your shopping addiction no matter what stage it is in.

Shopping Addiction Help

Since there is no one particular treatment option for shopping addiction, it’s necessary to address the problem using a multifaceted approach.

  • Debtors Anonymous: This is a 12 step treatment program for anyone with a desire to stop incurring unsecured debt. Debtors Anonymous can provide an integral support system and method for maintaining recovery.
  • Credit Counseling: Shopping addicts facing serious debt can also work with a credit counselor to identify areas for improvement and work on a debt payment plan to get finances back on track.
  • Traditional Therapy: Talking to a therapist might help you uncover the underlying cause of your addiction so you can solve the root issues of your problem.

The most important thing to do when you believe you have a shopping addiction is to get help. It’s easy to develop a problem with overspending in a culture that values consumerism, but the fact is shopping addiction can lead to low self-esteem, stress and a host of other unhealthy emotions and attitudes. Stopping this addiction in its tracks will let you once again establish financial well-being and enjoy a quality life.

Image: renjith krishnan /

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