For a substantial portion of Americans, shopping is a way of life. Advertisements, door-buster sales, even the grand architecture of our cathedral-like shopping malls are all a testament to the power of the Almighty Dollar. As a Team/Sales Consultant I can safely say that’s times are once again really good….just like the Go-Go Early Millennial Years consumers…. are spending with wild abandonment.
While this is great for my commission based business…as each weekend is an exhausting marathon of endless happy people spending- spending – spending …..it tells a deeper psychological story….why do we do this??
“Retail therapy” is even touted as a tongue-in-cheek cure for boredom, stress, and depression. Black Friday, one of the largest shopping times of the year….with over one hundred fifty million shoppers that will spend between seventy to eighty billion dollars
While many people are able to keep their shopping and buying within reasonable limits – allowing for the occasional impulse purchase here and there – a growing cadre of shopper cannot contain themselves…with easy zero credit and all those “discounts” who could blame them?!
Researchers estimate that between ten to seventeen percent struggle with this affliction.
Referred to using various terms like “pathological buying,” “shopping addiction,” and “compulsive shopping,” these “shopaholics” can find themselves running up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, causing strain on their relationships and impairing their ability to function effectively in everyday life.
Although a shopping addiction is often not viewed as being equally dangerous as addictions to alcohol, meth, crack cocaine, or other drugs, the reality is that compulsive shopping behavior can have many of the same toxic effects as any other addiction.
No Cold Turkey…. Gradual Detox Therapy
As with any other addiction, compulsive shopping is almost impossible to overcome without the help of a trained professional. That being said, treatment for compulsive shopping often looks different from treatment for chemical dependence or other addictions.
For example, the first stage of treatment for substance addictions is typically a detox period during which a person has the opportunity to allow his or her body to flush out any remaining drugs that may be in his or her system.
Naturally, in the case of a shopping addiction, there are no external chemicals from which a person must “detox,” so this process is skipped. The primary method of treating a shopping addiction is with a combination of individual and group therapy, building budgeting and financial skills, and changing habits and environments.
Uncovering the Source….Impulse Control
Therapy is typically the cornerstone of an addiction treatment program, and shopping addiction treatment is no different. In the case of compulsive shopping, therapy can primarily help to uncover the underlying issues that encourage pathological buying.
Therapist encourages those struggling with a shopping addiction to identify the thoughts, emotions, or situations that can trigger an urge to shop and also examine the role that shopping plays in a person’s life.
Does shopping allow for community, or feelings of being important, or excitement, or something else?…..what is the causality of that stimulus – reaction response?
Debtors Anonymous, can provide group and regular support….this can become a cornerstone of your therapeutic process
Discovering Your Trigger….Emotional Intelligence
In addition to therapy, people who struggle with pathological spending can often benefit from budgeting and skill-building. Simply seeing a breakdown of where a compulsive shopper’s money is going can sometimes be helpful.
In addition, developing one’s emotional intelligence by learning to recognize cycles of addiction, being aware of internal emotional reactions, and developing more effective coping strategies can all be tools to help a person break the habit.
Understanding Your Lifestyle….Needs versus Wants
Part of the reason compulsive shopping is so difficult to tackle is that a person’s daily life can actually reinforce the negative behavior. While a person’s habits can keep him or her in a cycle of shopping addiction, those same habits can be altered to reinforce healthy shopping behavior.
One way of altering these habits is by setting rules for yourself and deciding on areas or activities that are off-limits, such as shopping malls or certain shopping websites. If your typical route to work takes you past your local shopping mega center, consider altering your drive slightly.
If online shopping is your primary struggle, you might consider setting up website blocking software on your computer, blocking the shopping sites you frequent, and then giving the blocking software password to a family member.
The point is to look at elements of your environment that make things more difficult for you and find changes you can make so that you are not solely reliant on your own willpower.
Though overcoming a shopping addiction can be a difficult, stressful, and costly struggle, with proper help from trained professionals, good skill-building, and changes in your habits and environment, you can maximize your chances of taking back control of your life and developing a healthier relationship with money.