What is a Compulsive Buying Disorder and Do You Have It? The term shopaholic might be used to describe somebody who absolutely loves shopping and buying new things but being addicted to shopping is a real issue. Millions of people around the world suffer from a compulsion to spend money on new things, regardless of their financial situation or whether or not they actually need what they are buying. The surge in the availability of online shopping in recent years has also made it easier than ever for anybody to purchase anything, from anywhere, and at any time of the day.
If you’re dealing with a growing worry about the number of items that you are buying, even though you can’t afford them, aren’t sure how to stop, and it’s affecting other aspects of your life, you could be dealing with more than simply enjoying shopping. Let’s learn more about compulsive buying disorder, what it is, who it affects, and how to spot the signs.
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Compulsive Buying Disorder Definition:
Medically known as monomania, compulsive buying disorder is characterised by a compulsion to spend money, regardless of financial means or need. Approximately 90% of people who are affected by this disorder are women, although recent studies have shown that the number of men affected by this concerning condition is increasing.
Compulsive buying disorder is different to regular shopping. You might decide to shop if you have some money spare to treat yourself with, or you need to buy something new for yourself, your home, or your family, for example. However, one of the biggest differences between regular shopping and compulsive buying disorder is a lack of impulse control. Somebody with this disorder might spend so much time looking for sales and deals that it begins to interfere with their daily life. And, while most people shop to look for something specific that they need or just for the pleasure of buying themselves something new, those with compulsive buying disorder will often buy items as a way of combatting feelings like anxiety or depression.
Compulsive Buying Behaviour and Similarity to Other Addictions:
Making purchases is a coping strategy for negative feelings like anxiety, depression, and stress for many people who are compulsive buyers. However, this coping mechanism is often very short-lived since the pleasure that they experience when buying something new will usually wear off quickly, and the person will start to look for something else to buy so that they can feel good again.
The disorder is very similar in this way to most other addictions such as gambling or alcohol abuse, where the person believes that engaging in the activity will make them feel better. However, although it may cause a brief high or few moments of pleasure, the person will often feel worse afterwards. Some people who struggle with compulsive buying disorder are also struggling with other addictions or impulse disorders.
What Causes Compulsive Buying Disorder?
Although there is no one thing in particular that will lead to compulsive buying disorder, it is commonly linked with other psychological conditions. People with depression might use buying items to fill an emotional void, while people who are suffering from conditions that cause them to struggle to cope with negative feelings and emotions are also at a higher risk for this condition. Studies have also found that there is a link between emotional deprivation and trauma in childhood and compulsive buying behaviour in adulthood. Many people who struggle with this disorder will also often struggle with a need to be in control or perfectionism.
People who struggle with compulsive buying disorder will also often come from families where other family members are affected with the same condition or similar mood disorders and addictions, which may suggest that the condition can also be hereditary or learned from a young age.
Compulsive Purchase Disorder – Symptoms to Look Out For:
People who are affected with compulsive buying disorder might appear to be wealthy and have a lot of spare income for shopping. However, their reality is often far from this. Many people who deal with this condition might end up maxing out their credit cards or get into a lot of debt to continue feeding their purchase addiction while struggling to repay the debt that they have already accumulated.
Obsessing over making purchases on a regular basis, making lots of unnecessary purchases of items that go unused, or exhibiting feelings of regret and remorse after purchasing certain things are also common symptoms of this disorder. However, while many people with the condition might feel regretful after purchasing something that they do not need or was very expensive, this does not usually hold them back from purchasing more in the future. In some extreme cases, people with this condition might even resort to lying or stealing in order to be able to continue shopping.
Problems Caused By Compulsive Purchases:
While shopping in and of itself is not usually a problem for many people, a compulsive urge to make purchases regardless of whether or not you need the item or are able to afford to buy it can lead to serious problems in your personal and even your professional life. Many people who suffer from compulsive buying disorder struggle with debt, which can lead to further stress and anxiety in their lives. When a person is obsessed with making new purchases on a regular basis, this may even begin to lead to problems in their personal and professional lives. Family relationships and marriages are often damaged as a result of compulsive spending behaviour, especially if the person affected with the condition resorts to using money that is not their own to facilitate their purchases.
What Causes a Compulsive Urge to Buy Things?
As mentioned earlier, there is no one main cause of compulsive buying disorder and it can be the result of several different situations. Each person is unique, however, and understanding the underlying cause of the issue can make all the difference when it comes to getting help and effective treatment for this disorder. People who are already struggling with other addictive behaviours, people with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorders, and people who grew up with family members who exhibit symptoms of compulsive buying disorder or other addictions tend to be at a higher risk of suffering from this condition compared to others. However, it can affect anybody.
More recently, the rise of social media influencers and the growing pressure to appear ‘perfect’ online has led to a rise in compulsive buying disorder among younger people.
How to Get Compulsive Spending Help:
If you believe that you are struggling with compulsive buying disorder and the addiction is having a negative impact on your daily life, the best thing to do is speak to your doctor who will be able to assess your situation and advise you on where to get help. If the condition is the result of an underlying problem such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, your doctor will be able to prescribe medication or refer you to a psychiatrist who will assess your situation and determine the best steps to take to treat the underlying cause.
Therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also be very useful for dealing with a compulsive spending problem since this type of talking therapy is designed to help you retrain yourself when it comes to the coping mechanisms that you use in your daily life and will help you learn much healthier and less damaging ways of dealing with feelings of emptiness, stress, or anxiety rather than seeking the temporary high of buying something new.
What is the Treatment for Compulsive Spending?
It can be challenging to treat a shopping addiction since some amount of shopping is almost always necessary for most people in order to attain food, personal items, and clothing that is required for their day-to-day life. In most cases, it is not possible to completely cut yourself off from shopping. Compulsive buying disorder is most often treated through counselling and behavioural therapy. Medication may also be offered if the compulsive spending symptoms are a part of an underlying mental health condition.
A mental health professional will be able to help you identify where your addiction to shopping stems from, which can help you understand it and get in control of it. The treatment will primarily focus on helping you develop better impulse control, find new alternative ways to cope with stress and other negative emotions, and identify your triggers that usually prompt compulsive spending behaviour. With the help of a therapist, you can learn new, healthy ways of thinking, feeling and acting.
To overcome a compulsive spending problem, you may also find that you have to admit that you are struggling, with the help of your therapist or doctor, to both yourself and others. Remember that there is no shame in struggling with your mental health and that there are people in your life who will want to help you and only want the best for you.
Together with a trusted friend or family member, you might want to come up with strategies that will work for your daily life, such as going shopping together so that they can help to hold you accountable for your spending behaviour and encourage you to only buy what you need.
It is also worth looking into bank accounts that offer features to help you control your spending, such as pots that you can divide money into for bills and expenses and make it easier to see how much disposable income you actually have. If you are struggling with debt as a result of compulsive buying disorder, make it a priority to get in touch with your creditors or a debt charity such as Stepchange to start making steps towards repaying the debt and getting back in control.
Struggling with a compulsive urge to buy new things is often much more than simply liking shopping. Compulsive buying disorder can have several negative personal, financial, and even professional ramifications.