Shopping Spree, or Addiction?
What happens when shopping spirals out of control, and in some cases, becomes an addiction?
According to Zehr, these behaviors can also signal a serious problem:
- Shopping or spending money as a result of feeling angry, depressed,
anxious, or lonely
- Having arguments with others about one's shopping habits
- Feeling lost without credit cards -- actually going into withdrawal without
- Buying items on credit, rather than with cash
- Describing a rush or a feeling of euphoria with spending
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed after a spending spree
- Lying about how much money was spent. For instance, owning up to buying
something, but lying about how much it actually cost
- Thinking obsessively about money
- Spending a lot of time juggling accounts or bills to accommodate
"If someone identifies four or more of any of these behaviors, there may be
a problem," Zehr explains to WebMD.
Seeking Addiction Help
When a friend or family member recognizes a shopping addiction, start by
getting professional help.
"The first thing to do is to seek help, and that can occur at different
levels," says Zehr. "For the spouse, family member, or friend who is concerned,
an intervention is always a good idea. Also, find the closest Debtors
Anonymous, which is a 12-step program that will be important for ongoing
maintenance and support. And get credit counseling, as many of the people who
seek treatment at our facility have an average debt as a result of their
addiction of around $70,000."
Recognize, as well, that treating a shopping addiction requires a
"There are no standard treatments for shopping addiction," says Black. "Medications have been used, generally antidepressants that treat, in
some cases, the underlying issue of depression in someone with an addiction,
but with mixed results. Therapists also focus on cognitive-behavioral treatment
programs, and credit or debt counseling can be very helpful to some people, as
Black explains that there is no quick and easy answer that will immediately
cure a shopping addiction, and while treatment is a necessary part of solving
the problem, so is behavior change on the part of the addict.
"With some patients, I tell them they should have a self-proposed ban on
shopping, and with others, some of my very worst cases, I tell them they should
have someone else controlling their finances for them," says Black.
Black recommends some basic changes in behavior that will have a big impact
on breaking a shopping addiction:
- Admit that you are a compulsive spender, which is half the battle
- Get rid of checkbooks and credit cards, which fuel the problem
- Don't shop by yourself because most compulsive shoppers shop alone and if
you are with someone you are much less likely to be spend
- Find other meaningful ways to spend time
And keep in mind that while behavior change is clearly crucial to recovery,
so is reaching out for help.
"While I recommend starting with a psychiatric evaluation, you can also find
out what resources are in your area, and where you, a relative, or friend can
start to get help," says Engs.