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Compulsive Shopping Addiction

It’s the holidays. It is every company’s chance to capitalize on your need for, well, everything. There’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and Holiday sales and then when you think it’s over the ever so clever ringing-in -the-New-Year-everything-must-go-sale gets you!

“Tis the season, to go shopping”, and for some people this shopping isn’t just during the holidays but is an actual disorder known as a compulsive shopping addiction.

A compulsive shopping addiction is called omniomania and it is probably one of the most socially acceptable and reinforced behavioral addictions. Through widespread consumerism, advertising telling us to buy things, and politicians encouraging spending, we are in a constant state of more, more, more. What you can buy is a measure of your worth.

But we all have to shop to a certain degree and it seems that not too many of us actually have compulsive shopping addictions. When it comes to a compulsive shopping addiction only about 6% of the actual U.S. population is thought to have a problem with it. Compulsive shopping addictions usually don’t affect someone without another disorder in tow. Most compulsive shopping addiction are co-occurring with other disorders such as mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, personality disorders and any other impulse control disorders.

So if we all have to shop how can you tell the difference between normal shopping and a compulsive shopping addiction? What makes a normal shopper different than the 6% who have compulsive shopping addictions?

As with all addictions, shopping becomes the person’s main way of coping with stress to the point where they shop excessively even when it is having a negative impact on other areas of their life. They continue to shop despite negative consequences. Just like it is with other addiction finances and relationships are damaged, but the person with the compulsive shopping addiction feels like they can’t stop and can control their spending.

Most behavioral addictions are controversial, especially ones such as compulsive shopping addiction. Many experts don’t believe in the idea of having a shopping addiction because there is no substance and the person neither develops a tolerance nor has physical withdrawals which are symptoms of a true addiction. Some experts state that a compulsive shopping addiction would be more along the lines of obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD or an impulse control disorder, not an addiction.

Despite what the experts say there are multiple parallels between a drug addiction and compulsive shopping addiction.

For instance, just as with other addictions, a compulsive shopping addiction is highly ritualized and follows an addictive pattern of thought. Example being the shopper thinks about shopping, plans the shopping trips, and obsesses about the shopping act in itself. When the individual goes shopping they feel pleasure and get relief from negative feelings. The shopper will also “crash”, if you will, feeling disappointed with him or herself after the spree.

Those with a compulsive shopping addiction also use shopping as a way to escape. They use shopping as a way to escape negative feelings, depression, anxiety, boredom, self-critical thoughts, and anger. This is very similar to those with drug addiction. And just like those with a drug addiction the escape is very short lived or doesn’t last. The purchases of a compulsive shopper go unused or are hoarded in most circumstances. As soon as someone with a compulsive shopping addiction gets home they will begin planning their next shopping spree. Most compulsive shoppers shop alone or with other people who will are like them which parallels drug addiction also.

It is not yet studied at length but there seems to be a range of therapies and treatments which can help those with a compulsive shopping addiction. Medications, self-help books, self-help groups, financial counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy can all really help someone with a compulsive shopping problem.

If your loved one is in need of drug or alcohol addiction treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.

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