These days, shopping is as much a form of entertainment as going to the movies or playing video games. Between mall culture and convenient credit, it's easy to spend your time spending money.
Shopping shifts into high gear around the holidays. Some people view shopping as a sport, some as a chore. For others, the season is just another occasion to wrestle with compulsive buying -- especially if they're stressed or depressed.
For these folks, the mere thought of visiting a store any time of year can ease anxiety. The obsessive, uncontrollable act of shopping, even without buying, offers them fleeting excitement. Afterward, compulsive shoppers often feel remorse.
Almost 18 million Americans are compulsive buyers. Compulsive shopping is a growing problem in our society and is often associated with another disorder, such as anxiety or depression.
Compulsive buyers include men and women of any ethnic, social or economic group and age, with growing prevalence among teens and young adults. The majority of compulsive shoppers are women. Often shopping becomes an issue because it begins to interfere with the ability to function in life. Over-spenders describe a preoccupation with thinking about shopping, with tension building until they have a shopping excursion, which relieves the tension.
Many compulsive buyers shop not necessarily for things they want or need, but to fulfill much deeper emotional needs. Whether a symptom of a larger problem or a disorder in itself, compulsive buyers can face financial, relationship and legal problems. This makes them feel so bad they go shopping again -- and the cycle continues.
Are you a compulsive buyer?
These are signs of compulsive shopping:
- You think more than you want to about shopping.
- You prefer to shop alone to avoid embarrassment or distraction.
- You shop for longer time periods than you intended.
- You buy more than you planned.
- You buy things you don't need or want.
- You hide what you buy to avoid conflicts at home.
Stopping the shopping
Here are ideas on how to end compulsive buying:
- Admit that you have a problem.
- Seek professional therapy.
- Medication for depression and anxiety can be helpful for some people.
- Join Shopaholics Anonymous or another self-help group.
- Destroy your credit cards or leave them at home.
- Stay away from stores that tempt you.
- Shop with a friend who'll limit impulsive buying.
- Decide what you want to buy before you go.
- Avoid shopping after upsetting events or while you feel emotions that fuel compulsive shopping.
- Find more constructive ways to deal with negative emotions. Take a class or start a healthy hobby that doesn’t require spending.