The irresistible desire to shop is known as compulsive buying disorder or oniomania.
What is a shopping addiction?
Shopaholics or shopping addicts goes shopping when they feel down as a ” pick-me-up.” They go out and buy, to get a high, or get a “rush” just like a drug or alcohol addict. Some people develop shopping addictions because they essentially get addicted to how their brain feels while shopping. As they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive.
Difference between normal shopping binges & compulsive shopping?
Holiday seasons can trigger shopping binges among those who are not compulsive the rest of the year. Many shopping addicts go on binges all year long and may be compulsive about buying certain items, such as shoes, kitchen items or clothing; some will buy anything. Women with this compulsive disorder often have racks of clothes and possessions with the price tags still attached which have never been used. They will go to a shopping mall with the intention of buying one or two items and come home with bags and bags of purchases.
Unfortunately, because shopping is a common and normal behavior, and compulsive shoppers often go out of their way to hide the evidence of their purchases, it’s not always easy to identify the problem. Even one of the common signs of the disorder – frequent arguments over money with a spouse or significant other – is a normal issue.
In some cases shopaholics have an emotional “black out” and do not remember even buying the articles. If their family or friends begin to complain about their purchases, they will often hide the things they buy. They are often in denial about the problem. Because they cannot pay their bills, their credit rating suffers. They have collection agencies attempting to get what is owed, and may have legal, social and relationship problems. Shopaholics may attempt to hide their problem by taking on an extra job to pay for bills. And while some people joke about it, for those sufferers, family members and friends affected, a shopping addiction is no laughing matter.
Definition of compulsive shopping:
Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as inappropriate, excessive, and out of control. Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses.
Compulsive shopping or over-shopping is a process addiction and is similar to other addictive behaviors and has some of the same characteristics as problem drinking (alcoholism), gambling addiction and overeating addictions. And while Shopping Addiction is not a recognized mental health or medical disorder, many mental health professionals believe it should be. The addict buys to relieve anxiety and over time the buying creates a dysfunctional lifestyle and more-and-more of their focus is on shopping and sometimes the cover-up too.
Understanding Process Addictions
Addictions to drugs and addictions to processes are very similar. Both start with chemical changes deep inside the brain.
Brain cells are primed to produce euphoric substances when something wonderful happens, and a separate set of brain cells is designed to respond when that wonderful trigger appears. It’s the work of these cells that’s responsible for the flood of pleasant feelings that takes hold when a person smells a baking pie or hears a baby laugh. The chemical signals are hard at work to ensure that a person is able to recognize that something great is happening.
That same set of signals can stand behind drug abuse, as addictive drugs tend to cause unnatural spikes in the production or uptake of chemical signals of pleasure. But this same process can take hold in people who engage in certain types of activities.
Who is at greater risk to suffer from a process addiction?
A number of factors contribute to the development of behavioral addictions, including personality, substance abuse, and genetics. For example, you may have heard the term “addictive personality” in the context of addiction, treatment, and recovery. While no clinical criteria define an addictive personality, research has shown that people who suffer from substance abuse or behavioral addictions tend to share common personality traits. For instance, people who score high on personality and behavior assessments for impulsivity and sensation-seeking are more likely to suffer from a process addiction. Similarly, people who score low on harm-avoidance are also more likely to suffer from a behavioral addiction.
Genetics is another important factor that influences whether or not someone will develop a behavioral addiction. If you have a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who suffers from a process addiction, you are at increased risk of suffering from either a behavioral or substance addiction yourself.
Typical signs and symptoms
The most recent version of the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists only one behavioral addiction (gambling disorder), three behavioral compulsions (hoarding disorder, trichotillomania, and excoriation), and one impulse-control disorder (kleptomania). However, all behavioral addictions have common traits, such as
- Preoccupation with the behavior.
- Diminished ability to control the behavior.
- Building up a tolerance to the behavior so the behavior is needed more often or in greater intensity to get the desired gratification.
- Experiencing withdrawal if the behavior is avoided or resisted.
- Experiencing adverse psychological consequences, such as depression or anxiety symptoms, when the behavior is avoided or resisted
Hoarding is a persistent difficulty in parting with physical possessions, regardless of its value, the space one has, the need for money, a safe living environment, or other resources. Hoarding is sometimes associated with a shopping addiction, though there is no official diagnosis for shopping addiction in the DSM-5.
Shopping addicts will experience withdrawal symptoms that are similar to the withdrawal symptoms experienced by people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you feel irritable, depressed or out of control after shopping, you may be experiencing withdrawal, and you may need to get help.