What is a Shopping Addiction?
Shopping addiction is a severe behavioural addiction that affects roughly around 8 million people in the UK. This destructive disorder is characterised by the need or impulse to buy items routinely with serious difficulty to stop – regardless of the consequences.
Similar to other addictions, this condition is generally rooted in emotional and psychological factors that manifest as an outlet for compulsive shopping. While an addiction to shopping may seem harmless at first glance, the seriousness and complexities of this disorder can produce significant emotional problems relating to self-esteem, stress, and personal challenges.
What’s more, shopping addicts typically shop with disregard or a sense of budget, often leaving themselves in financial ruin and economic turmoil.
Types of Shopping Addiction
While most shopping addictions stem from similar psychological issues, the way in which the shopping addiction is expressed can vary from person to person. Understanding that this addiction is far more than just a shopping spree, shopping behaviours can manifest in the following ways:
- Compulsive Shopping: This is the most common type. Individuals feel an uncontrollable urge to shop and often buy things they don’t need. This behaviour is typically a way to relieve stress or escape negative feelings.
- Trophy Shopping: People with this type of addiction hunt for the perfect item. They are often perfectionists and can spend a large amount of time and money to find the exact thing they have in mind.
- Bargain Shopping: This form is driven by the thrill of getting a good deal. Bargain shoppers are constantly on the lookout for sales, discounts, and offers, even if they don’t need the items they’re buying.
- Bulimic Shopping: This is a cycle of buying and then returning the purchased items. Individuals with this type of addiction often feel buyer’s remorse immediately after purchasing, leading them to return the items.
- Collector Shopping: Collectors are focused on acquiring a particular type of item, such as books, shoes, or watches. This type of shopping addiction is often justified by the individual as a hobby or interest, but it can become compulsive and financially damaging.
- Image Shopping: This type revolves around buying items that enhance one’s image or status. Individuals are often motivated by a desire to impress others and may purchase luxury goods or the latest trends to maintain a certain appearance.
- Co-dependent Shopping: People who shop to gain love or approval from others. They may constantly buy gifts for others to maintain relationships or to feel accepted.
- Revenge Shopping: Sometimes, individuals engage in shopping to retaliate against someone who has upset them. This is often an emotional response to anger or frustration.
It’s important to note that in the digital age we live in, we have access to thousands of shops and products at the click of a button through the use of the internet. Online shopping has become a serious problem – we no longer have to physically walk into a shop to buy things. The types of shopping addiction above can all be performed behind a screen, which further complicates the problem.
Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction
For those addicted to shopping or those who feel they have a loved one who may suffer from this condition, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms that characterise this condition in order to get treatment or stage an early intervention before things get out of hand. Here we have listed some of the most telltale signs that could signify someone is struggling with symptoms of shopping addiction:
- Compulsive Buying: An overwhelming and often irresistible urge to shop, leading to frequent and unnecessary purchases.
- Financial Issues: Spending more money than one can afford leads to financial problems such as debt, inability to pay bills, or excessive use of credit cards.
- Preoccupation with Shopping: Constantly thinking about shopping, planning the next purchase, or spending significant time browsing online stores or visiting shopping centres.
- Hiding Purchases: Feeling embarrassed or guilty about shopping habits, leading to hiding purchases, receipts, or credit card statements from family or friends.
- Emotional Shopping: Using shopping to cope with negative emotions such as stress, sadness, loneliness, or anxiety.
- Relationship Problems: Shopping habits cause arguments or strain in relationships with family, friends, or significant others.
- Neglecting Other Aspects of Life: Neglecting responsibilities, work, social engagements, or hobbies because of time spent shopping or dealing with its consequences.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing feelings of anxiety, irritability, or depression when trying to reduce or stop shopping.
- Return Rituals: Regularly returning items after the rush of buying has worn off, often feeling remorse or guilt post-purchase.
- Loss of Control: Feeling unable to resist the urge to shop, even when aware of its negative consequences.
- Justification of Unnecessary Purchases: Rationalising unnecessary purchases with excuses or convincing oneself that these purchases are needed.
- Desire for Status or Approval: Shopping for expensive or trendy items to gain status, approval, or to maintain a certain image.
These are only some signs of shopping addiction. While some experience and show these symptoms, it’s crucial to understand that shopping addiction may manifest different signs in others. This condition is complex and requires a professional assessment from a mental health and addiction expert – if you think you require intervention, it’s important to seek help immediately.
Causes of Shopping Addiction
For those who develop a shopping addiction, the answers to the root cause may be blurred. People with a shopping addiction generally use shopping as a way to cope with their emotional and psychological issues, often enough, without even realising it themselves.
The key to addressing compulsive shopping behaviours lies in professional help. Understanding the root causes of the behaviours allows people to comprehend the reasons and triggers behind the addiction and ultimately overcome the burden. Here are some common factors that contribute to developing an addiction:
- Emotional Distress: Individuals may use shopping as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, stress, or low self-esteem.
- Mental Health Disorders: Conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can increase the risk of developing a shopping addiction.
- Personality Traits: Certain personality traits, like impulsiveness, perfectionism, or a constant need for approval, can make individuals more prone to compulsive shopping.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL INFLUENCES
- Consumer Culture: Living in a consumer-driven society that glorifies shopping and material possessions can contribute to developing a shopping addiction.
- Social Pressure: The desire to keep up with peers or societal standards, especially in terms of fashion or lifestyle, can drive compulsive shopping behaviours.
- Advertising and Marketing: Persistent exposure to advertising and marketing that promotes shopping as a desirable or rewarding activity can influence individuals’ shopping habits.
- Brain Chemistry: Shopping can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, leading to addictive behaviours.
- Genetic Predisposition: There might be a genetic component that makes certain individuals more susceptible to addictive behaviours, including shopping addiction.
LIFE EVENTS OR TRAUMA
- Stressful Life Events: Experiences like a loss, trauma, or significant life changes can trigger excessive shopping as a way to seek comfort or distraction.
- History of Abuse or Trauma: Individuals who have experienced abuse or trauma might turn to shopping as a means of regaining a sense of control or to escape from painful memories.
- Easy Access to Credit: Easy access to credit cards and online shopping platforms can facilitate compulsive buying habits.
- Social Media Influence: The influence of social media, where influencers and peers often showcase purchases and lifestyles, can encourage excessive shopping.
While these factors are typically associated with this condition, shopping addiction isn’t always clear-cut. To determine the causes, help you understand, and help you overcome this addiction, it’s essential to reach out to a professional mental health centre that deals with shopping addictions directly.
Treatment for Shopping Addiction
As far as treatment options go for this condition, PROMIS has created individualised treatment plans that cater for each and every patient who walks through our doors.
Once an initial assessment has been completed to determine the best root of treatment, our mental health professionals can guide you through the stages and deliver the most appropriate treatment that works for your specific condition and symptoms.
Here is some information on our treatment programmes at PROMIS:
For those with severe symptoms and at high risk from the impact of shopping addiction, we offer a residential setting whereby our patients will stay in one of our luxury locations for full-time rehabilitation. This setting allows full management and complete care 24/7.
During your stay with PROMIS, you will have access to our medical team and the experience of rehabilitation with luxury amenities and activities, access to counselling and therapy, and discover how you can beat shopping addiction for good.
Our outpatient service is predominantly for those with less severe or mild symptoms. This option works well for people who need a little more flexibility regarding treatment routines and have the need to commit to obligations outside of a treatment centre, like work or childcare.
This route still provides our patients with the utmost care and attention. However, it is completed without a full-time stay at one of our facilities.
Therapy and Medication Treatment
As part of our shopping addiction treatment, patients will have access to some of the best counselling and therapies that are available in the UK, both in individual and group settings. We provide cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which involves working with a qualified therapist to help you understand how emotions, behaviours and thoughts are contributing to your addiction.
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is used to help you identify and regulate your emotions to help you beat the addiction. For patients with severe co-occurring disorders relating to mental health, such as anxiety and depression, our therapists can administer medications.
Get Help for Shopping Addiction and Compulsive Buying With PROMIS
If you or a loved one are experiencing issues with problematic shopping, contact PROMIS today. Let us help and guide you toward a life free from shopping addiction today. Contact us now for a free assessment.