Compulsive Shopping Behavior

Shopping addiction; in other words “Compulsive Shopping Behavior” has become a common concern.

18 million adults in the United States suffer from Compulsive Shopping Behavior and the term “Shopaholic” really exists.

Research shows that people engage in compulsive shopping behavior to cope with their difficult feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety and stress. Most people are not aware that the driving force under their shopping behavior is these emotions. The short term good feelings obtained by shopping are usually replaced by guilt, shame and frustration which is what makes this behavior a problem.

Here are some common issues underlying the compulsive shopping behavior:

  • Impaired impulse control
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationship problems
  • A family history of mood and substance disorders
  • Financial difficulties
  • Frequent spending sprees (including ones that extend beyond the holiday season)
  • Other psychiatric problems, such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating and personality disorders
  • Substance dependence

Below, I am including a mini checklist for you. If you answer yes to most of these questions, you may need help in identifying your underlying reasons for longterm solutions:

Do you:

  • Hide purchases for fear others will think what you’ve bought is irrational?
  • Use “retail therapy” to feel more relaxed and deal with stress?
  • Buy unnecessary items?
  • Feel you are unable to help spending all or part of any money you have?
  • Frequently buy impulsively?
  • Experience a strong urge to buy?
  • Like spending money?
  • Feel a stir inside you that urges you to shop?
  • Often feel regret or guilt after buying something that may have been unreasonable?
  • Respond to direct mail offers?
  • Buy things you don’t need even though you cannot afford them?

Identifying your shopping addiction will be a good opportunity for you to work on your underlying issue to find a longterm solution.

Shopping can be a fun activity and the act of shopping itself is not a problem – it becomes a problem when the overwhelming emotions you get following your behavior become too much to cope with.

-Ipek Aykol, LMFT 97315