by Kostas Chiotis
While it’s okay to give in to the occasional urge to add a new pair of shoes or a pink dress to your wardrobe, a shift from impulsive to compulsive buying could be a possible sign that you have a bigger problem- a shopping addiction. In a consumer-driven world, credit cards, vouchers, and coupons all push us to a whole problem comparable to other forms of addiction like gambling and alcoholism.
An article appearing in the PubMed database revealed that nearly 7% of Americans struggle with compulsive buying, which is more than 18 million American citizens. In a society where “shop till you drop” translates to fun, the many shopping addicts continue with the shopping sprees without acknowledging that they have a problem. The problem has been worsened by the growth of online shopping and adverse marketing.
But here is the best part:
You can survive a shopping addiction, just as a gambler can recover from gambling addiction. If you recognize that you have a problem and need help, that is a starting point to the recovery process. Don’t wait till it is too late. However, if you are in doubt, here are possible signs that you have a shopping disorder:
You are easily tempted to buy things that you do not need.
Every time you go to a store, you develop an irresistible urge to buy something new, even though you already have a similar item at home. You are likely to feel vulnerable if you admitted that you are obsessed with particular items such as a watches, handbags or new phone cases.
You experience a feeling of excitement when you buy.
Shopping addicts experience an adrenaline rush when purchasing something that they desire. However, the excitement comes from the act of making a purchase rather than owning the product.
Creditors hound you.
Most shopaholics find themselves cornered by creditors, banks, and even friends, due to their poor credit rating. Usually, it is a case of poor management of debt brought about by spending more than you can afford. Even in such circumstances, they are hesitant to seek expert advice on managing debt.
You hide your spending habits.
If you find yourself hiding the shopping baskets or your newly acquired clothing, you could be having a bigger problem. Some people may even take quick loans secretly to purchase desirable products without the knowledge of their parents or partner.
Most items in your closet have their tags affixed or have never been opened.
If you find yourself buying things at a faster rate that you need them, you are most likely a shopaholic. The closet may be filled with dozens of new items that remains unopened several months since they were bought.
Anger, frustrations, and boredom spark the urge to shop.
Shopping addicts indulge in compulsive buying as a way of filling an emotional void like boredom, loneliness, arguments or frustrations. Every time you develop such feelings, the only retrieve is to go shopping as a way of healing from the emotions. If you find comfort in food every time you are angry or moody, you are more likely to go on a shopping craze as well.
Simple Ways to Ditch Shopping Addiction
Just like gambling, alcohol and smoking addiction, shopaholics result to shopping as a quick way to feel good. Overspending closes the gap between their real self and who they want to be seen as. If you are desperate to escape compulsive buying, you still have a chance to quit the addictive behavior. Here are simple ways to kick out the “shop till you drop” habit:
Pay using cash, cheque or debit cards.
These payment options limit the amount of money you spend, unlike a credit card that allows you to spend money that you don’t own. Destroy the available credit cards or leave them at home when you go shopping. If you must own credit cards, let someone else hold the cards for you.
Prepare a shopping list.
Always carry a shopping list with estimated costs and stick to it. Also, you should take cash that is enough for the items in the shopping list. This prevents buying products that you had not budgeted for.
Bring along a non-addicted friend when shopping
If you must go shopping, bring along a trusted companion who understands your spending habits. Let the person carry your shopping list so that he or she can help you stick to it. Also, if you have credit cards, let the person hold them on your behalf.
Find a new activity.
Prepare a list of inexpensive activities that you can do to substitute going to the mall. Activities such as listening to music, exercising, jogging and learning new skills will help kill boredom and manage stress levels. Keep the list handy so that when the urge strikes, you can choose an easy-to-do activity to occupy your mind.
Avoid visiting stores or websites that may tempt you to buy something that you do not need. Destroy all shopping catalogs, stop watching shopping channels on TV and limit the number of shopping trips to discount stores and shopping malls. Only shop when you need necessities. When visiting new cities and countries, have a budget that you should not exceed.
Seek help as soon as you realize that you have a compulsive buying disorder, instead of waiting till you hit rock bottom. Most shopaholics ask for help when they have piled too much debt, making it impossible to seek professional help. In the absence of enough resource, you should get help from self-help and self-supporting addiction groups like Debtors Anonymous.
Although some shopaholics may take an impulse buying habit as a normal behavior, it is a serious problem just like other forms of addiction such as drug addiction and alcoholism. If ignored, shopping addiction may lead to broken homes, bankruptcy and even peculiar habits such as shoplifting. If you have a shopping addiction, seek help from family, friends, self-help groups and addiction psychologists to assist you in the recovery process.