Jokes about shopping addiction are pretty common in modern society. But all kidding aside, some people shop compulsively in the same way others may engage in compulsive gambling or sexual promiscuity. For these people, a very real disorder that can be clinically diagnosed is ruining their lives financially, emotionally, and relationally.

Addiction Helper is fully aware of the existence of compulsive shopping as an addictive disorder. As such, we offer treatment programmes for people in need of help. We work with private rehab clinics and other treatment providers throughout the UK providing a variety of therapies that can help bring an end to disorders involving compulsive shopping.

Basic Principles of Shopping Addiction

The term ‘shopping addiction’ is a relatively generic term that encompasses a number of different conditions including compulsive buying disorder (CBD), compulsive shopping, and oniomania. Exactly what is going on in the mind of the individual sufferer usually determines the clinical diagnosis provided. Clinicians vary in how they view shopping addiction, but the typical diagnosis usually falls under one of the following four categories:

  • Impulse control disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Clinical addiction.

For practical purposes, it matters not to the sufferer which category his or her problem falls under. The point is that the patient suffers from uncontrollable compulsions to shop and buy. Sufferers feel compelled to buy things they don’t want or need simply because they get a physical and emotional rush from doing so. Many will attempt to stop shopping compulsively but fail time and again.

Clinicians generally agree that shopping addiction in all its forms is triggered by some other underlying cause that may or may not have been previously identified. The cause is a trigger that leads a suffer to use shopping as a means of coping with something else they cannot deal with. Examples of underlying causes include depression, excessive anger, loneliness, and anxiety.

Adaptive and Maladaptive Behaviour

The idea of shopping and buying as compulsive behaviours is sometimes complicated by the reality that shopping has been used in the past as an adaptive behaviour. What does this mean? Adaptive behaviours are nothing more than activities a person can engage in as a substitute for other activities that are deemed physically, mentally, or emotionally damaging. Shopping has been recommended by psychotherapists for quite a while as an adaptive behaviour to overcome depression.

This reality has led us to the understanding that some people who suffer from shopping addiction were originally suffering from some other kind of disorder for which shopping was recommended as an adaptive behaviour. At whatever point the shopping transitions from adaptive to maladaptive behaviour the patient begins experiencing increasingly intense shopping compulsions.

Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

When shopping becomes compulsive, it manifests itself in ways that are easily identifiable by family members and friends. If you know what to look for, you can get a pretty good idea of whether you or someone you care about is dealing with a shopping addiction. The signs and symptoms to look for are:

  • Secretiveness about shopping habits
  • Deliberate hiding of items and receipts
  • Unusual fear that others will find out about shopping trips
  • Purchasing unnecessary items even when they are not affordable
  • Routinely juggling bills to support non-essential purchases
  • The tendency to continually look for new storage options for acquired merchandise.

As you might imagine, shopping addiction often goes hand-in-hand with hoarding. Such is not always the case but when it is, overcoming both problems simultaneously become a bit more challenging. Still, overcoming is a must. Shopping addiction carries with it consequences just as any other addictive behaviour does. It has been linked to:

  • clinical anxiety and depression
  • damaged personal relationships
  • stress-induced physical illness.

Obviously, compulsive shopping can very easily lead to financial distress that eventually results in the loss of one’s home, car, and other possessions. Sufferers can wind up in court because they are unable to pay their bills.

Treatment for Shopping Addiction

There is no detox requirement for shopping addiction because there is no physical dependence on the behaviour. That said, the first step in treatment is to identify the cause. This determines the course of treatment therapists will follow.

For example, if a clinical diagnosis reveals depression to be at the centre of a shopping addiction, the most appropriate treatment is to deal with the depression first. Gaining control over the depression will likely reduce or eliminate compulsive desires to shop.

Therapists use a number of different tools to uncover root causes and help patients develop avoidance and coping strategies. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one example, support group participation is another. Please be aware that our clinics design bespoke treatment plans based on individual needs. We do not throw every client into a single treatment programme and expect it to work for all of them.

Restoring Financial Stability

In cases where shopping addiction has left the person in serious financial trouble, therapy may include certain kinds of programmes aimed at restoring financial stability. For example, a patient may be educated in the process of creating and maintaining a budget to control future spending. That person might also be offered assistance through a debt management charity to get current debts under control.

Restoring financial stability is a crucial factor in overcoming shopping addiction. Otherwise, the patient may go right back to compulsive shopping once therapy is complete in order to relieve the pressure of indebtedness. This creates an ongoing cycle requiring additional treatment that would have otherwise been unnecessary.

Shopping addiction does not have to be a permanent part of your life or the life of someone you care about. Please feel free to contact Addiction Helper right away if you are concerned about a compulsive shopper. Our trained and caring counsellors are standing by to answer your questions, walk you through treatment options, and refer you to a treatment facility in your area.