Shopping is an essential activity and part of regular life but it can become a compulsive behavior in some people, turning the issue into even an addiction in a few of them.
Shopping addiction or spending behavior problem has specific terms. It is called Oniomania, shopaholism or Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD). Essentially it is a behavioural disorder characterised by a preoccupation with spending money, and an unquenchable impulse to buy things.
This excessive buying behavior, an otherwise normal action, leads to adverse consequences. It can often leave people in economic chaos and social issues similar to other widely recognised addictions such as gambling addiction.
More often than not, this problem situation can go undetected by friends or family until the person’s accumulated debt is no longer manageable or causes other problems that can’t be hidden anymore.
It is important to note that people with shopping addiction generally have co-occurring mental health issues. It could be that the abnormal buying behavior is their way of dealing with depression, anxiety or to improve their mood.
However, as with other addictions, the continued excessive purchasing activity can make people feel worse over time due to the increasing debt and other social consequences.
One way to self-identify spending addiction is the feelings of guilt or remorse about buying things but not being able to respond by controlling the urge.
An observational method to identify shopping addiction is to look for behavioral patterns related to purchasing things that end up in financial problems such as:
- Frequent overdrafts on debit cards
- Maxing out or exceeding credit card limits
- Taking several lines of credit or loans
- Asking friends and family for money without a valid reason.
- Frequent fights and arguments about money with loved ones
Unfortunately, people with extreme patterns of compulsive shopping behavior who are faced with piling debt could even resort to lying, theft or financial fraud to continue with their addiction.
Due to lack of sufficient research into the shopping addiction, it is not recognized as a mental health disorder. Scientists are still debating whether compulsive and excessive buying should be considered as an impulse-control, obsessive-compulsive, or addictive disorder.
However, many health care professionals agree that the compulsive shopping has all the features of a process addiction associated with mental health issues.
People with a shopping addiction usually shop alone, even if their friends share their love of shopping. For them, it’s a private pleasure, and they may feel embarrassed about their unusual behavior.
If someone is wondering if they have a shopping addiction, one validated tool is called Bergen Shopping Addition Scale. It contains 28 self-assessment statements that best describes your behavior. For each question, the choice of 5 responses ranges from “completely disagree” to “completely agree”. The statements relate to your thoughts, feelings and actions in the last 12 months.
To find out more about this scale refer to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26441749