We live in a consumer-based society. The days of bartering are long past, and we now almost exclusively buy the things we need; most of us also occasionally buy things that we don’t need. And we’re surrounded by advertising that encourages spending – told that buying the latest and greatest will make us happy. But what about people who spend far more than is wise on thing they will likely never use? Though it is definitely one of the most socially acceptable, an addiction to shopping can be as devastating as any other.
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line between buying necessities, having the occasional “retail therapy” outing, and being a shopaholic? Generally, people who are truly addicted to shopping will spend more money than they can afford, and shop when their time would be better spent elsewhere – such as at work, or with friends and family. A shopaholic needs the temporary high brought about by compulsive or impulsive spending, though they’re often unsatisfied with their purchases when they arrive home. They seek to fill a void, or escape emotional difficulties by shopping; though when the temporary high recedes they, like any other addict, are left feeling empty and craving another “hit”.
There are several types of shopaholic, and you may have a shopping addiction if you identify strongly with any of the following descriptions. Compulsive shoppers feel the need to buy when they feel distressed, while trophy shoppers seek the “perfect” item. Bargain seekers will buy items they don’t need if the deal is attractive enough; bulimic shoppers cycle through purchasing and returning items. Collectors need multiple items (all pieces of a set, or an item in every available colour) to fill complete. Some shopaholics love flashy items and want to appear to be a big spender.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if you are, or if a loved one is a shopaholic; an addict relies on the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain caused by indulging in their addiction. Shopaholics Anonymous suggest asking yourself if overspending has created problems in your life; do you feel rushes or anxiety while shopping, like you’ve done something dangerous? Do you feel embarrassed or guilty about your actions, leading to conflict with loved ones? Do you often buy things that you never use?
As with any other addiction, if you think you might be a shopaholic, help is out there – contact Shopaholics Anonymous for resources in your area, reach out to a loved one, or speak to your doctor.