At the point of seeking help for shopping addiction, you’ve probably already experienced some of the negative consequences of compulsive spending. You may have had difficult conversations with your partner about spending too much money. She may have confided in you that she can’t stop spending. Your partner might have told you about significant debts he’s built up. Perhaps you’ve just received an unexpected bill that you’re struggling to pay.
Shopping addiction has many consequences for financial security but it can also affect health and relationships. To friends or other family members, shopping addiction might not seem as serious as an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling, for example – but this isn’t the case. The causes and consequences of shopping addiction can be every bit as damaging, to the person affected and their close family too.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at 10 of the signs of shopping addiction. If you identify with these signs, we’ll explain the next steps of getting help for shopping addiction.
10 Signs of Shopping Addiction – Do You Have a Spending Problem?
These 10 signs of shopping addiction will help you identify the extent of your problem. If you’re looking up this information for your partner, it’s better to ask them to read these signs, rather than attempt to assess their problem by yourself. Encourage your partner to be as honest as possible about how much he or she relates to each sign. If you prefer to speak to a trained addictions advisor for a confidential assessment over the phone and treatment options, please contact Addiction Helper.
1. You frequently buy items that you don’t use or value
Do you often buy things you don’t use much, if at all? This could be expensive items such as designer clothing, household items or jewellery. Equally, it can be less expensive items – such as products on sale, books, stationery, food or accessories.
Do you feel excited just before you buy something you want? Does the thrill quickly fade after the purchase? The item soon seems old to you, less appealing than it seemed in store or online.
This concept of value in shopping addiction is helpful to consider. It’s linked to how well you can recall what you’ve spent your money on. So, take a moment to consider the bigger purchases you’ve made in the last six months. How many can you remember easily? And how do you feel about those purchases now? Do you still use those items today?
2. You can’t stop spending in specific areas
Often shopping addicts still believe they’re in control of their spending because they don’t overspend in all areas of their life. So you may be perfectly able to spend moderately on clothing or groceries or entertainment, for example. Yet you can’t stop spending on travel, gifts or home improvements.
For example, you may be very a health conscious person. You often find yourself in health food stores, buying expensive supplements or organic produce. The items make you feel momentarily better about yourself or your life – but often they don’t get used up.
Or perhaps you overspend on nights out with certain friends. You may feel the need to keep up with how much they spend. Or you feel that your enjoyment is linked to wearing a new outfit, buying expensive drinks or going to exclusive venues. The next day, you are often unclear about how much money you’ve spent.
3. You often feel impulsive about making purchases
Do you have to have things now? Do you panic about buying something before it sells out? Is it difficult to pass up a bargain? Do you make frequent spontaneous purchases – where you go shopping for one thing but come back with much more?
With shopping addiction, it’s common to experience these types of compulsions. If you can’t stop spending, ask yourself if it’s because you often act on a very strong desire? Is it hard to wait or save for the things you want?
4. You find it hard to say no to salespeople
Do you often feel pressurised to buy? Do you buy add-ons you don’t want?
For example, you go to the hairdressers intending to get a cut and style. You leave with your new haircut but also some expensive hair products that you don’t actually need.
This isn’t a problem if it happens occasionally. It’s when you feel a repeating sense of obligation to buy that you may have an addiction to shopping.
5. You experience highs and lows around spending
As with any addiction, there are the immediate payoffs – so you may feel great building up to a purchase and just after you buy.
However, as shopping addiction progresses, there are usually more lows. Perhaps a few days later, you feel guilty about spending money on something you didn’t need. You may feel too embarrassed to return it to the store. Or you know you’ve spent money that was intended for something else. Many people have debts building up too, which play on their mind.
At a deeper level, your mental health may be really suffering – experiencing low self-esteem, anxiety or depression. You may be aware that you can’t stop spending and feel increasingly helpless about your addictive patterns.
6. Increasingly, you use credit to make purchases
The use of credit, including store cards, credit cards or loans, often plays a big part in shopping addiction. This is not only because credit temporarily extends your financial resources but it’s also because using credit can feel less real than handing over your cash. The credit card or store card bill doesn’t come for a month after the purchase. The loan affords you an increased sense of prosperity, for now.
With cash or a debit card, the money leaves your wallet or your bank account straight away. It’s not quite so easy to avoid the amount you are spending.
7. You experience the financial vagueness associated with a shopping addiction
Do you dislike or avoid checking your bank account? Do you take weeks to open bills that come through the post? Is it hard to save money?
If you can’t stop spending, then it can be hard to face up to the reality of your financial situation.
8. You’ve had financial crises because you can’t stop spending
How many times in your life have you got into difficulty with money? Have you needed help from family to get you out of trouble? Frequently borrowing money, being unable to pay back friends, extending overdrafts and regularly seeking new credit lines can all be signs of unmanageable spending.
9. You shop when you feel stressed, angry, bored, upset or lonely
Do you shop when you have feelings you don’t like? Does shopping make you feel temporarily better about life? Or at least distract you from what’s going on?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing this once in a while – treating yourself to nice things that you can afford can be very beneficial. With shopping addiction, look out for a consistent pattern of behaviour around emotionally-driven purchases.
10. Your life feels dull, difficult or painful when you’re not spending money
This is one of the most important signs to look out for. How do you feel when you’re not shopping or spending money? If day-to-day life feels meaningless or very hard, then you may be turning to shopping to cope.
You may also be suffering from another mental health disorder or addiction. For example, you shop to escape your symptoms of depression. Or you spend too much money every time you drink alcohol, take drugs or restrict food.
There is Help for Shopping Addiction
Did you relate to several of those signs of shopping addiction? If so, do you want help to change?
You can speak to Addiction Helper about your situation, including discussing any other addictions or mental health conditions you have. We can provide you with advice on the best addiction help. The treatment options will depend on the severity of your shopping addiction and the harm it is causing in your life, as well as your personal preferences for the type of support you want.
For more information, please visit our shopping addiction page.