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Is Compulsive Shopping An Addiction?

by Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.

 
Is compulsive shopping an addiction? Why would a person become a compulsive shopper and how do you control it?

Compulsive shopping is not really an addiction because addictions involve some degree of physical dependence. Rather it is a compulsive behavior with some aspects of a lack of impulse control.

There is a multitude of ways that people can become compulsive shoppers and our society encourages people to spend, spend, spend. Look in nearly any medium today and you'll see messages like "Save $50!" (which, of course, means that you're only spending a little less but the bottom line is that money is flowing out of your pocket, not into it).

If you personally are experiencing difficulties controlling your spending, ask yourself "What short-term reward or pleasure do I get from buying something?" Do you buy things to help you feel better about yourself? Do you feel like a 'nobody" unless you're wearing the latest fashion? If yes, you may be shopping to cope with poor self esteem. Take a class or online workshop on building your self esteem and combine that with setting limits on yourself with your chopping. To help control your compulsive shopping, try some of these tactics: Control your available cash & credit. Leave credit cards, your check book, ATM cards, and most of your cash at home, taking only a limited amount of money, or access to it with you. If you see something you really would like to buy, hold off and think about it for a day or two. Do you really need it or are you buying it to feel good about yourself? If after considering it for a while, you decide you need it, consider whether you can afford it given your budget. Get a strong support group around yourself to help you weather the storms that will inevitably arise.

Another option is to consider getting some counseling either with a credit counselor or with a professional counselor. Whichever option you choose, making a decision to control yourself is an important first step. And if at first you don't succeed, don't get discouraged. Continue trying different options until you find one (or a combination of tactics) that work for you. Good luck!

About the Author:

Reid K. Hester, Ph.D., Director, Research Division, Behavior Therapy Associates, 3810 Osuna Rd. NE Suite 1, Albuquerque, NM 87109. Phone: 505.345.6100; Fax: 505.342.2454.

Originally published 02/19/98
Revised 8/15/08 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.
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