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Shopping addiction goes by many names, including oniomania, compulsive shopping, shopaholism, compulsive buying disorder or CB, but all of these names point to the same illness. While society may view shopping addiction as a minor addiction in comparison to drug, alcohol, or eating addictions, people who have a shopping addiction can still endanger themselves and disrupt their lives. Two to eight percent of U.S. adults are affected by shopping addiction, and a majority of them are female. This is the face of a growing national debt; shopping addiction seems to be a growing problem. Many people do not even know that they suffer from true shopping addiction, and how it is affecting their lives. However, the best way to understand this addiction is through education and understanding.

What is Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction is the compulsive need to excessively purchase things, to the point that it causes disruption in life. For example, while many people enjoy shopping, if they do not have the money to purchase something that they want, they simply do not buy it. Someone with shopping addiction would go out and get a credit card to make the purchase, and if they are unable to make the purchase otherwise, they feel great distress. Common signs and symptoms of compulsive buying include things like feeling the need to go shopping when angry, worried, or depressed, elevated mood or anxiety while shopping, lying about purchases made or the cost of such purchases, thinking about money constantly and the need for credit cards, and trying to manage accounts and bills in order to accommodate for spending. Shopping addiction seems to also be comorbid with other disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and impulse control disorders.

What Causes Shopping Addiction?

In the psychiatric community there is still quite a bit of debate about how to categorize what kind of disorder shopping addiction is, which points to the causes of shopping addiction. Some psychologists look at shopping addiction much like any other addiction, whereas other psychologists view shopping addiction as a compulsive disorder. As an addiction, the cause is the euphoria of shopping that helps people cope with the emotional stresses of life. As a compulsion however, people with shopping addiction feel compelled to go shopping because of emotional stresses in life. In psychology this may seem like a subtle difference, but this effects how people with shopping addiction are treated. Some of the psychological conditions that are associated with shopping addiction include the inability to cope with negative feelings and stressors, emotional starvation as a child, the need to have control, thrill seeking personalities, and general impulse or compulsion problems.

  • Compulsive Buying: A theoretical framework that discusses compulsive buying and psychiatry, psychology, marketing, and sociology.
  • Disorder or Not: Is compulsive buying a real disorder, and is it really compulsive?
  • Consumption Crazed: This is the story of one girl who had to deal with shopping addiction and what may have triggered the addiction to begin with.

What Kinds of Treatments Exist?

Most treatments include some kind of cognitive and/or behavioral therapy. Basically, this means that the person with shopping addiction would try to change their thinking about shopping and recognize the detrimental side effects of compulsive buying, such as overwhelming debt. People with shopping addiction would also learn better coping mechanisms with negative feelings and life stressors, and do things while shopping to reduce compulsive drives. For example, taking only cash or debit cards while shopping, avoiding catalogs and TV shopping shows, and avoiding big discount stores help people with shopping addiction control their spending. In extreme cases, people with shopping addiction may need to seek a counselor or support group. Medicines, such as anti-depressants, have also been used to treat shopping addiction, especially if disorders such as depression, general anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders are comorbid with shopping addiction. Many people who start taking these medications have felt less compulsion, and gained a great deal of relief. However some current research shows that taking antidepressants may not necessarily aid in treating shopping addiction. Researchers believe that this may be due to sample size, and agree that shopping addiction cannot be something that is caused by one biological reason, as there are social and psychological factors that often contribute to shopping addiction. Researchers continue to look for the best way to treat shopping addiction

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  • Medications: Antidepressant helps alleviate compulsive shopping disorder, Stanford researchers find
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  • Beating the Addiction: Ways to battle shopping addiction are outlined on this page.
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