Is Compulsive Shopping an Addiction? Or Is It a Bad Habit?

Oniomania is the medical term given to describe compulsive shopping habits. Among US residents, it is said to affect approximately 6% of the national population. Above all else, a compulsion to shop is driven by the desire to spend money as a mood enhancer. The relief gained from spending money is said to be comparable to the rush experienced by drug addicts.

A shopping addiction drives those afflicted to seek out the gratification of spending again and again. Deep down, little regard is given to the actual items purchased. Not long after a recent shopping trip, addicts will quickly feel unsatisfied with what they have acquired. Consequently, they start to plan their next shopping trip when their mood again deteriorates, thereby continuing their spiraling pattern of behavior.

Online Shopping on the Rise

Back in 2012, retail e-commerce sales in the US topped $200 billion. And there is every indication to suggest that the $225.3 billion worth sales increasing past $300 billion in 2014 and 2015. Faster internet access and the rapid development of mobile devices are contributing to fuel the growth, with major retailers responding by continuing to invest in their e-commerce presence.

The almost unavoidable presence of online shopping makes it incredibly tough for compulsive shoppers to resist the lure of purchasing. Looking back 20 years, compulsive shoppers were not faced with anything like the current level of temptation. Online shopping adds another dimension to the issue, with those affected tied to their computers buying things they often don’t want.

Gender Patterns

Lorrin M. Koran was the first author to complete a study on US compulsive spending habits. Koran determined in his 2006 study that women are drawn to clothes and cosmetics, while men tend to favor electronic items. Interestingly, the Psychiatric Times found there to be an almost equal distribution between males and females who have a shopping addiction.

Shopaholics Anonymous explains that compulsive shopping is driven by various factors, including emotional deprivation in childhood, desire to fill a void, or an inability to tolerate negative feelings – plus many others. Those circumstances are not unique to one gender, which is why males and females face the same level of risk.

The Drive to Spend

Compulsive shopping is similar to other well-known addictions, in that addicts are driven to spend money uncontrollably as a means of self-medication to remedy their anxiety or depression. Compared to normal shoppers, compulsive individuals go through more extreme swings to reach the point where they feel compelled to shop.

As the pressure of their feelings increases, the only way to feel relief is to spend money on the items currently dominating their thoughts. While compulsive buying is recognized among most psychologists, it is not typically diagnosed as its own disorder. Instead, compulsive buying is typically diagnosed as being an impulse control disorder.

The Spiral Begins

In the moments immediately following a purchase, compulsive buyers will genuinely feel incredible relief after having recently felt anxious or depressed. However, the problem with addiction is that you cannot cure it by giving in to your desires. Compulsive shoppers will soon realize this not long after their purchases.

Rationality soon takes over after the euphoria and they quickly realize that they have spent money they cannot afford. In turn, this feeds their depressive or anxious nature, setting them up for a later relapse as they seek to feel happier.

Addiction vs. Habitual Spending

For those who have been diagnosed with a compulsive-buying disorder, they are most certainly addicts. Ideally, these individuals will seek out professional help to conquer their harmful addiction. However, you cannot classify everybody who shops as being an addict. There are plenty of people who enjoy shopping but do not have an addiction.

However, many shopping enthusiasts might be asking themselves whether or not they have a problem, but this could very well be due to a lack of control on their finances. Every year seems to bring a new financial commitment, so keeping track of all the costs can be tough. Being unaware of your finances can lead to careless spending that would be better categorized as habitual.

In the cases of both addicts and problem spenders, Debtors Anonymous has information to help clarify the extent of your problem. Basic advice is then provided as to how you should proceed next. While problem spenders might be able to address their problems through basic lifestyle changes, addicts will need the help of professionals to deal with the roots of their problems.

To summarize, shopping addiction occurs when compulsive buyers seek to relieve the pressure of anxiety or depression by making purchases. The pattern of addiction is based on uncontrollable spending that has negative consequences for their life. These can include financial hardship, deteriorating relationships, and even loss of employment. Thus, shopping can potentially be an addiction for some people.