5 Signs You Have a Shopping Addiction

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Source: iStock

Addiction can extend way beyond cases of substance abuse, and one of the most expensive habits you can develop is a shopping addiction. The advent of online shopping has made it even easier to make impulse buys, so if you are already addicted to the internet or your smartphone, you might have good reason to closely monitor your mobile shopping behavior. Left untreated, compulsive buying disorder (CBD) can escalate into mounting debt, strained relationships, and more mental health problems.

There has been some disagreement over whether compulsive shopping should be included as a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but it’s clear that this kind of behavior can be dangerous both financially and medically. According to a 2007 review of CBD in World Psychiatry, the condition is often accompanied by mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and/or other impulse control disorders. The paper also notes that while most people in clinical studies are women, “this gender difference may be artifactual.” About 6% of women and 5.5% of men are compulsive buyers, according to a 2006 study from Stanford University in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

There is also evidence that compulsive shopping runs in families, frequently alongside mood and substance use disorders. That said, seemingly anyone has the potential to develop a serious problem with shopping. Your friends might joke that you are a shopaholic, but everyone makes impulse purchases from time to time. So at what point does it become a shopping addiction? Here are the signs that you (or a loved one) might actually have a real problem. If you suspect CBD, seek help from a mental health professional, financial counselor, and/or support group, such as Debtors Anonymous.

1. You’re always thinking about shopping

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Source: iStock

People with CBD often report a vicious cycle that begins with an intense preoccupation with shopping, followed by pre-purchase tension or anxiety, and then a sense of relief following the purchase. While rare, it’s also possible to be a compulsive window-shopper. These types of sufferers spend hours upon hours thinking about potential purchases, but don’t follow through on their fantasies. More commonly, obsessive thinking about shopping leads to actual spending. The purchases may be relatively inexpensive, but the huge quantities of items add up, which can create debt very quickly. In some cases, compulsive shoppers don’t necessarily buy things they need or even want, and unused products continuously pile up.

2. You can’t control your shopping urges

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Source: iStock

Like many impulse control disorders, CBD is often identified based on the sense of powerlessness reported by sufferers. In one study, 85% of subjects expressed concern with their CBD-related debts, and 74% felt out of control while shopping. Another report showed 92% of subjects tried to resist their urges to buy, but were rarely successful. The research indicated that 74% of the subjects’ shopping urges resulted in a purchase. It’s natural to assume that many compulsive shoppers recognize that there is a problem, but most still can’t seem to change their behavior.

“Usually people try to stop on their own, and they may be successful for a short period of time but usually something triggers it and they go back into the behavior,” Terrence Shulman of The Shulman Center told Business Insider. “There’s a recurring pattern of promising others you’ll stop, but not being able to manage it.”

3. You shop when you feel stressed, anxious, or angry

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Source: iStock

Shopping to soothe yourself when you aren’t feeling good can be a sign of an addiction. The first item on Schulman’s compulsive shopping checklist states: “Do you ‘take off for the stores’ when you’ve experienced a setback or a disappointment, or when you feel angry or scared?” Many compulsive shoppers are seeking the rush of euphoria they only get through making purchases, so when they are feeling down, shopping urges can intensify. This is why many CBD sufferers are likely to fall off the wagon. Any stressful situation or disappointment turns into a potential trigger.

4. You hide your shopping behavior and lie about it

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Source: iStock

After the euphoria wears off, individuals with CBD are usually plagued by feelings of shame and guilt. Compulsive shoppers sometimes try to hide their purchases and debts, shop privately with secret accounts, or lie about their purchases and how much money they spend. It’s difficult to keep these behaviors a secret, especially for someone who is married or in a relationship. As a result, compulsive shoppers also tend to have relationship problems stemming from their habit. “Shopaholics will hide their purchases because they don’t want their significant other to know they bought it because they’ll be criticized,” Professor Ruth Engs, EdD, told WebMD. People who over-shop don’t want to appear materialistic and irresponsible to their loved ones, but at the same time, they have trouble controlling themselves.

5. Shopping disrupts your relationships, career, or eating and sleeping habits

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Source: iStock

On top of strained relationships with loved ones, compulsive shoppers typically face disruptions to various other parts of their lives. A hallmark of CBD is the excessive amount of time dedicated to thinking about shopping, making purchases, and attempting to cover up the habit. That means time spent on job responsibilities and self care can be jeopardized. “We know that most addictive behaviors interfere with people’s sleep and eating patterns,” Shulman said. “When people are under increased stress by having the addictive behavior they will either eat more or eat less, or they will sleep more or sleep less.” Either way, the change will likely be dramatic.

There may still be those who hesitate to call behavioral disorders like compulsive shopping “diseases,” but there should be no discounting how dangerous they can be. In addition to wreaking havoc on your financial health and your relationships, a shopping addiction has the potential to completely devastate your physical and mental health.

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