On our most recent Money America radio show, my co-host, Lavalle Smith, and I discussed a subject that the counselors here at Cambridge have been hearing a lot about lately — Compulsive Buying Disorder. The disorder is characterized by an obsession with shopping that often results in negative consequences. According to a Stanford University study, 6% of the US population is affected by such an addiction. Surprisingly, the study also found that while this compulsion is generally associated with women, shopping addiction affects both genders equally. While Compulsive Buying Disorder is not currently considered as a disease, there are certain circles within the medical community that believe that the disorder should be reclassified.
It’s important to note a compulsive shopping is not simply going to the mall and purchasing something to lift your spirits. Compulsion is most commonly defined as behavior that is inappropriate and excessive; therefore, purchasing a shirt after having a bad day does not addiction make. However, as 10 to 15% of the population may be predisposed to addictive behavior, one should analyze the reasons as to why he or she is shopping. Are you shopping out of necessity, satisfying a momentary impulse or chasing a high?
Shopping, an addition… really?
When I speak to my colleagues regarding shopping addiction I generally receive a response of “Only in America can something like this happen.” Perhaps no war has been waged against Compulsive Buying Disorder because of our casual observation of shopping, or the fact that two-thirds of our economy is based on consumer spending. Regardless, Compulsive Buying Disorder can have disastrous consequences on not only an individual’s finances, but also their relationships. In a financial sense, some addiction recovery facilities have reported that those seeking to deal with Compulsive Buying Disorder typically carry credit card debt in excess of $70,000. As for their relationships, those who suffer from addiction drive a wedge between themselves and loved ones which can spiral into an ongoing battle with depression. This creates a never-ending cycle of feeding the addiction in an attempt to stave off the reality in which they are living.
Just as is the case with most addictions, there are stressors that promote such behavior. Similar to those who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, an addiction to shopping may stem from someone’s emotional instability. Some of the factors cited regarding shopping addiction are the inability to properly cope with the challenges within one’s life, feelings of loneliness or emptiness, depression, or the quest for acceptance. Unfortunately, an individual may not even be aware that they have a problem with their spending. While our culture looks down upon those battling addictions to drugs or alcohol, shopping is ingrained within our society. Therefore people arrive at the conclusion the problem is not with shopping itself, but rather the lack of income to support the purchases they would like to make. Essentially, this is denial; however, it does hamper someone arriving at the conclusion that they do have a problem.
There are few questions you should ask yourself as to whether or not you may be dealing with an addiction to shopping. Some of these are as follows:
- Feel as though your spending habits are beyond control?
- Believe your spending habits are causing conflict within your relationships?
- Experience feelings of euphoria when making purchases?
- Have feelings of guilt or remorse after making purchases?
- Purchase items you will never use simply for the sake of shopping?
- Hide your spending habits from your friends and loved ones?
If you believe you may be suffering from such a disorder, I recommend contacting a qualified health professional who can make a proper diagnosis. Furthermore, individuals can contact their local Debtors Anonymous. The organization can be reached by visiting www.debtorsanonymous.org, or calling toll-free 800-421-2383.