Shopping addiction, also referred to as compulsive buying disorder, is similar to substance addictions. The person has constant uncontrollable urges to shop or spend, and continues to act on them regardless of potential consequences.
Shopping gives the person a euphoric sense of pleasure as they get their fix. Scientifically, this releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter, that causes feeling and pleasure. Because of this, the user wants this feeling to remain as long as possible or to be repeated as much as possible.
If your shopping spree has turned into a problem — you can't pay your bills, your relationships have fractured because you're hiding excessive spending habits, or you buy things you don't even use — you have an addiction.
Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment options.
"The best treatment option for shopping addiction is to work with a mental health professional to get therapy," says Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatric resident at Dalhousie University. "If that's not feasible or if someone wants to supplement therapy, they can confide in trusted family and friends by asking them to help whenever possible such as identifying problem spending, dispose of any credit cards and only make purchases with cash or debit, or only go shopping with family or friends to ensure sticking to the essentials until this becomes a normal habit."
Shopping addiction treatments
Family therapy — Because addictions don't only affect one person, you may want to enroll in family therapy to help combat a shopping addiction you or someone you know is dealing with. This helps with accountability and responsibility for actions. For example, you may be encouraged to share receipts or bank statements with a spouse or loved one to encourage honesty and limit unnecessary spending.
Cognitive behavioral therapy — In this type of psychotherapy you address unhealthy or negative behaviors that may contribute to compulsive buying disorder. Through a number of discussions with a mental health worker, you will be able to not only address these behaviors but also understand how to view them and respond in a more positive and productive manner.
Treatment of comorbidities — As with many addictions, the presence of comorbidities (two or more chronic diseases or conditions) may exist. Excessive shoppers may be battling with depression and anxiety or other mental disorders and use compulsive buying as a means to feel better about themselves. Addressing these comorbidities can also lead to combatting your shopping addiction.
Financial counseling — Because people who suffer from shopping addiction spend compulsively regardless of potential consequence — debt, no finances, stealing — some sort of financial counseling can help benefit them in the long run. Not only will they see the results of their actions, but groups like Debtors Anonymous can provide a communal support system of others going through similar situations.