By Bobby Shriver
If you do a quick Google search on shopping, you’ll get billions and billions of results, literally. Shopping is a regular part of our daily lives. Concepts like shopping sprees, Amazon wish lists, and even retail therapy are part of our cultural lexicon. And who doesn’t have a fond memory of purchasing one of their favorite possessions? Shopping itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes it can be difficult to know how much shopping is too much, especially when our culture so often tells us that buying things makes us happier (more on that in a bit).
Sometimes it can be difficult to know how much shopping is too much, especially when our culture so often tells us that buying things makes us happier.
If shopping gets to a point where it starts taking over your life, it can evolve into an actual condition called oniomania, more commonly known as shopping addiction or compulsive shopping disorder. This behavioral addiction causes an uncontrollable urge to buy things as a way to feel good and manage (or avoid) negative emotions. If this sounds like your experience, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and take steps to overcome this consequential addiction so that it doesn’t get worse.
Creating an Environment for Shopping Addiction
As we explore compulsive shopping disorder, we must understand the societal influences that so easily encourage it. To start, consumerism promotes the idea that your well-being and happiness are tied to owning material possessions, according to Investopedia.com. Such messaging in advertising and media today is constant, telling us to buy things we need (and things we don’t) in pursuit of our own satisfaction. And many of us believe it, buying more than we can afford, to the tune of nearly $1 trillion in US credit card debt in 2022, a new record, USA TODAY reports.
Yet while advertising influences our buying habits, our peers can actually play a sizable role in our drive to shop, according to Vox. Our desire to keep up with the Joneses or emulate people we want to identify with has created a widespread comparison culture, and this has ballooned even more thanks to social media. Popular social networks like TikTok have pushed the boundaries of shopping with influencer-led trends like #hauls, so much so that there’s a growing anti-haul movement to #de-influence overconsumption, Mashable shares.
For some, these environmental forces can lead to problematic shopping behaviors, where someone uses shopping as an unhealthy coping mechanism. But for others, this turns into a downright shopping addiction, leaving them unable to stop their spending.
How to Know if You Have a Shopping Addiction
As you’re reading this you may be thinking, How much shopping is too much? After all, there’s a difference between compulsive and impulsive spending. Impulsive spending involves an unplanned purchase in the moment (think a candy bar in the grocery store checkout line), while compulsive spending is usually planned in advance to satisfy or escape certain feelings.
If you’re wondering how to know if you have a shopping addiction based on your own spending habits, VeryWellMind.com lists some telltale signs to look out for:
- Shopping when stressed or sad
- Always thinking about things you plan to purchase
- Being unable to stop compulsive spending
- Experiencing a rush of euphoria after buying something
- Lying about purchases or hiding them from others
- Purchasing things you don’t need
- Feeling regret or guilt about your purchases
Those dealing with a shopping addiction simply can’t stop shopping, facing several challenges that directly impact their lives. Compulsive shoppers often spend more than they earn, and this overbuying leads to increased debt and additional credit cards, spiraling into major financial problems. Relationships can get damaged due to distrust from spending habits, lying about purchases, or the need to cut off compulsive shoppers from bank account access. These shoppers can also regularly experience feelings of shame, embarrassment, disappointment, and anger as a result of their spending.
Steps You Can Take to Overcome a Shopping Addiction
As debts pile up and bank accounts dwindle, compulsive shoppers may begin to wonder if there’s a way out. Thankfully, there are intentional steps anyone can take to overcome a shopping addiction, and it starts with learning other ways to manage everyday stress. Better ways to cope, according to VeryWellMind.com, include finding new leisure time activities, shopping only with friends or family to keep you accountable, and stopping credit card usage altogether. It’s also important to get to the root of the negative feelings or unwanted emotions that may be driving your shopping addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), financial counseling, and self-help groups have also been effective treatment options.
Thankfully, there are intentional steps anyone can take to overcome a shopping addiction, and it starts with learning other ways to manage everyday stress.
Struggling With an Addiction? Recovery Is Possible at The Meadows
If you’re struggling with compulsive shopping disorder or another addiction, The Meadows is here for you. With nearly 50 years of helping people overcome addiction and address trauma, we’re experts at helping you overcome not just the problematic behavior but the root issues behind it, equipping you with the tools you need to successfully find hope and lasting recovery. Contact us today to explore one of our many specialized programs and take the first step in your journey of transformation.