Can’t Stop Shopping? Read This.

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

Can’t stop shopping? You may have be experiencing a shopping addiction. Also referred to as compulsive shopping, this is a behavioral type of addiction that involves shopping to ease stress and reduce or eliminate anxiety, depression, angst, sadness, fear, anger, and/or emotional or physical discomfort or pain. The truth is, people who have a shopping addiction use it as a form of stress-relief.

Breaking down compulsive shopping

People with a shopping addiction feel like they can’t stop shopping. They experience uncontrollable urges to shop frequently and/or for long periods of time – even at the expense of other more important tasks like paying bills, grocery shopping, exercising, eating, sleeping, taking care of children, cleaning up the house and washing clothes, cooking, going to work or school, and spending time with friends and loved ones.

One-in-twenty adults in the US suffer from a shopping addiction.

~ Psychologist’s Note!

Perhaps too much fun…

Shopping produces pleasure and euphoric feelings in shopping addicts, which triggers more shopping. According to therapists, a change in thinking can lead to a change in behavior to help people who can’t stop shopping. Shopping addiction treatment may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, couples counseling, individual counseling, addictions counseling, and financial counseling. The goal of these counseling approaches is to change how the shopping addict thinks and behaves. Treatment may also involve self-help guides, support groups, and/or medication.

Take action if you can’t stop shopping!

It is important to understand that if you can’t stop shopping and this addiction is left untreated, it can destroy your relationships, ramp up financial debt, limit your job prospects, trigger psychological distress, and harm your health and well-being. The good news is that counselors can help you identify the cause(s) of your shopping addiction and teach you how to shop in a healthier, more productive way, so it doesn’t ruin your life.

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Read the longer version

You can learn more about compulsive shopping addiction (definition, signs, possible causes, and treatment) by reading the following articles, reviewed to be the best by our professionals: Shopping Spree, or Addiction?, What is shopping addiction?, and 5 Ways to Beat Your Shopping Addiction.

Understanding your addiction can help you beat it, so you can live a happy and healthy life.


Learn your triggers

If you want to cure your shopping addiction, you’ll need to learn your triggers. In other words, what causes you to feel like you want or need to shop? What sparks those urges? Is it anger, fear, shame, low self-esteem, feeling unloved, boredom, guilt, etc.?

The best way to identify these triggers is to keep a handwritten journal or online journal and document what happens before you get the urge to shop. Also, document how you felt before you started shopping, while you were shopping, and once you finished shopping.


Replace shopping with healthier alternatives

If you’re a shopaholic that wants to quit shopping, you’ll need to find something to replace it with. In other words, you’ll need to replace your shopping with healthier alternatives. How? Grab a friend or two and use your thinking caps to come up with other fun and exciting ways to fill your shopping need. Maybe you and some friends could start a new hobby together – this way you’ll have support and you’ll learn something new with people you trust!
What about taking a group cooking class together or learning marital arts – i.e. taekwondo or karate – with your closest buddies? Or, what about learning how to do DIY home projects with your spouse or partner? How about learning a new skill like calligraphy? Bet you never thought of that one, right? Maybe, you could focus on your health and well-being by becoming a vegetarian or adopting a healthier diet i.e. Paleo, Mediterranean, or Keto diet.
Maybe you can throw yourself into a new workout dance program like Zumba, Salsa, or Belly Dancing. The best thing you can do to cure your shopping addiction is to find something fun, stimulating, and fast-paced to take your mind off of shopping.
Note: Don’t try to replace your compulsive shopping for another addiction, because it’s still an addiction. For instance, don’t replace compulsive shopping with overeating or gambling, because it will still wreak havoc on your life. Stick to activities that will improve your life – not suck it dry.
If you are productive and you keep yourself busy, you won’t have time to compulsively shop – you’ll be too tired.


Wait a little before buying anything

If you have a compulsive shopping addiction, you probably purchase a lot of things in a short amount of time. You can’t help it – it’s a compulsion. So, how can you combat this? By waiting a little before you buy anything. If the urge to shop pops up, don’t buy anything. Instead, busy yourself with something else for a while and then see how you feel.
Many times, people will want something they see or think of ASAP, but if they don’t get it immediately, they lose interest. Wait and see if you still want it later. If you do – purchase one item and only one item, then wait a little again if you want to purchase something else. Do not purchase a bunch items in succession.
Start out waiting at least 30 minutes before purchasing anything. Then, gradually lengthen that time to 45 minutes, then 60 minutes, then a few hours… Keep going until there is a day or two between purchases. The ultimate goal is to put a week or two between purchases, so you’re not continuously buying things.
Waiting for an item may make you realize you never really wanted it in the first place. It’ll at the very least slow you down and give your credit card a rest.


Make a list of the things you need before purchasing anything

Another way to cure a shopping addiction is to make a list of the things you need before you go to the store (or website) and definitely before you purchase anything there. In other words, make a detailed shopping/grocery list and do not deviate from the items on the list. List in order of importance all of the items you need (not want) and mark each one off after you pick it up or put it in your shopping cart.


Document your expenses

Lastly, document your expenses if you want to kick your shopping habit to the curb. In other words, keep a detailed checkbook register not for checks, but for your debit card and cash purchases. This will help you keep up with what you are spending in real-time. Then, once you get home, put that information into a monthly expense Excel spreadsheet or an app like Intuit Mint or Quicken.
Don’t forget to notate if you use a debit card, credit card, or cash payment, what the item(s) were, how much the total was, and the date you made the purchase. Keep a close eye on your account balance by checking it online.
The goal is to help you see how much money you are spending and what you are spending it on. It’s also to help you see how often you are going shopping and how it’s affecting your finances. If you see how much money you spend on shopping each day or week or month, it will curb your spending sprees.

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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