The Reality of a Shopping Addiction

After months of people spending the overwhelming majority of their time in quarantine due to COVID-19, addictive behaviors are rising. Many studies show that cases of alcoholism and drug addiction have increased, including people who were once in long-term recovery but relapsed during the pandemic. Still, other addictions are experiencing a spike in numbers, including shopping addiction. 

For those who deal with a shopping addiction, the surplus of free time and boredom makes it difficult to resist the urge to browse for more things to purchase. When the option of going out to most stores and shopping centers is removed, it makes shopping online that much more tempting. Purchases can be selected, moved to a virtual shopping cart, and paid for with just a few clicks of the mouse. By May of this year, there was an astonishing 80% increase in visits to retail websites. 

Is Shopping Addiction a Real Thing?

While there is debate over whether shopping can truly be considered an ‘addiction,’ it is similar to any compulsive behavior that disrupts a person’s life and results in negative consequences. Many treatment professionals refer to it as “compulsive buying disorder.” Women comprise the overwhelming majority of those with a shopping addiction. However, they are also more likely to admit to this compulsion. Men may describe their shopping addiction as merely adding to a collection, not associating it with true compulsive action.

Compulsive shopping can include purchases that involve a great deal of research and price comparisons, or it can include impulse buys that are not planned. Items purchased may be considered something the shopper needs for themselves or intends to give as gifts. They may be random items of no apparent value to themselves or anyone in their life. In many of those cases, the things stay unpackaged or with price tags attached, gathering dust. 

The Purchases Are Not the Real Payoff

The actual purchased items are often of little consequence to a shopping addict. The emotional thrill of the shopping is the goal, rather than the many physical acquisitions. Compulsive shoppers report a feeling of anxiety that gives them an urge to make a purchase to relieve it. Many people turn to compulsive shopping after a stressful event, such as an argument with someone or receiving bad news. 

Despite the expectation that peace of mind will be the payoff for making purchases, the individual usually experiences remorse or guilt after a shopping event. This negative emotion can trigger them to make more purchases to quell their stress, keeping them rooted in a never-ending cycle. Like substance abuse, the individual believes the next ‘high’ will provide satisfaction and ease tension. They often trick themselves into believing that their next purchase will be their last. This behavior is very similar to addicted people seeking “just one more hit” or “one more drink.” It’s a delusion that helps justify the behavior in the eyes of an addicted person. 

Negative Outcomes Are Inevitable

Engaging in a compulsive buying disorder can result in problems that are difficult to surmount. A long-term shopping addiction can result in so many items purchased, many of them never used, that a person’s home begins to look like something from the TV show Hoarders. Some people throw away a lot of the items they bought just to make more room for the next haul they bring in. 

Unless a person’s funds are unlimited, financial hardship can quickly become an issue. Many people who compulsively shop do their best to hide their purchases from family and friends, including any evidence of the money spent. Bank accounts are drained, credit cards are maxed out, and money that should be going to expenses like mortgage payments, debt, or utilities are instead being spent on secret shopping binges. Often, a spouse or family member discovers the reality of what their loved one has been doing. Following this discovery, they are shocked and angry to find out they are in dire financial straits. 

‘Tis the Season

As the holidays approach, advertising gears up for stores and services, most of it pushing the idea that giving is essential. A person dealing with a shopping addiction is already vulnerable. Too often, the frequency of holiday ads makes it much more difficult to resist engaging in more shopping. Increased purchases can be dismissed as presents for others, making it easier to hide the reality of what the compulsive shopping behaviors are really about. The end of the year holidays can prove stressful for many people in general, helping contribute to the cycle of shopping addiction. 

Some people mistake a shopping addiction for a luxury pass time only for the rich. The act of compulsively shopping is an overwhelming condition that can bankrupt any person’s emotional life and their family’s finances. Silver Lining understands the nature of a variety of life-altering addictions and how to treat them, offering ongoing outpatient care in convenient appointments available both day and evening. Our compassionate professional treatment team helps you dig deep and sort out your life events that led to a shopping addiction. Our beautiful location near the beach in Southern California helps clients reconnect with themselves and their loved ones. We also offer treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, depression, and more. Don’t let embarrassment about your compulsive shopping stop you from reclaiming your life. Call us today at (866) 448-4563 and find out how we can help you move forward! 

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