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Is 'compulsive shopping' for real?

By October 27, 2008 - 1:41pm
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A lot of people are a bit sceptical about compulsive shopping/shopping addiction being legitimate. People say it's an addiction but most couldn't do it if they didn't have credit cards and didn't do it until they had credit cards.

People think it's more a case of lack of control, greed or irresponsibility. There is definitley a rush of having something new but to call it an addiction (when others really are battling certain addictions) seems a bit strange to some. Maybe they just don't get it?

Sceptics think that everyone seems to have an excuse nowadays and instead of copping to plain old irresponsibility or wanting instant gratification, they now claim it's an addiction....?

Is compulsive shopping really a disorder? An addiction?

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Well, as you said, "lack of control" is one possible explanation of what some people think the excessive shopping is (instead of an addiction). Ironic, because the very definition of addiction is when a person has a "loss of control" and the shopping/exercise/alcohol/food becomes the focus of their life.

Also, you say that people think compulsive shopping is not an addiction, because they "couldn't do it if they didn't have credit cards." The same argument can be said with addictions including alcoholism, drugs, gambling...you can't be an alcoholic if you don't have alcohol, right? Wrong! A person who can not control how much they drink (or shop, or eat, or exercise, or gamble...) without an "external force" acting upon them is said to have an addiction. In other words: a person with addiction to alcohol may bring only enough money to buy five beers for the evening. That is an external "force" stopping them (lack of money), because they fear they may not have the internal force to stop themselves when in a drinking situation.

So, sure, a person can not be an addictive shopper without cash or credit, but that does not mean they don't have a problem or an addiction. The "lack of money" in this scenario is still an external force, and internally (psychologically) they still have a problem.

When thinking about "addictions", it is important to understand the motives and reasoning and emotions beyond the undesirable behavior. Loss of control, fear, feeling a "high" after the behavior, feeling ashamed, re-working your life to accomodate the addiction, harming relationships...these are all signs of a problem or addiction.

A "shopping spree" and "compulsive shopping" can equally go out-of-control, so how can you tell them apart? Here are some signs that a behavior may have crossed the line into an addiction:

- The shopping (or any other behavior: drinking, smoking, gambling, eating, exercising, etc) impairs relationships due to arguments, spending more time on addiction than relationships...which can lead to isolation
- Shopping and planning to shop is thought about compulsively
- Shopping happens as a result of feeling angry, depressed, anxious, or lonely
- Feeling a loss of control without shopping
- Describing a rush or a feeling of euphoria with spending
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed after a spending spree

October 28, 2008 - 1:22pm

I think I'm guilty of depression or anxiety shopping. There are times when a friend and I will go shopping just to deal with a ridiculously stressful day. We don't do this very often, though, because we work on opposite ends of the city. I don't think that it's an addiction for me, just compulsive spending that hits when I'm feeling particularly stressed or "out of sorts."

However, I have known someone who absolutely had to go shopping and for no particular reason at all. I sometimes wondered if it was an addiction for her, or just total irresponsibility; and she'd return half the stuff she bought, just to go out and do it all again. Her husband complained about the outrageous credit card debt she racked up, but it didn't seem to phase her. In her case, I would believe she had an addiction to shopping.

October 27, 2008 - 8:00pm
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