Shopping Addiction

What Shopping Can Lead To What is shopping? Is shopping something we do for fun, for fashion, or to make us happy? Is shopping in our culture? Is shopping something we have learned from our parents, growing up? Shopping can be defined in many ways, but when does shopping become a problem? In “Shopping Spree, or Addiction” by Heather Hatfield, MD, she says “shopping can be one of America’s favorite past-times, but shopping can also lead to a self-destructive addiction that will cause financial disaster (1-2). I’ll be going over two main factors, credit cards and the mall environment, that cause a shopping addiction, along with the type of illness, depression, that also causes a shopping addiction. I’ll also talk about the treatment individuals go through to overcome the addiction. The dictionary definition of shopping is the act of a person who shops. It does not define an overreaction to shopping. What is an overreaction to shopping? It’s a shopping addiction. A shopping addiction is referred to as shopoholism, and is just as unhealthy as alcoholism, drug abuse, and gambling.
In some cases there are similarities amongst these addictions. For instance, alcoholics will hide their bottles, and shopaholics will hide their purchases. Having a shopping and spending addiction is defined as being inappropriate, excessive, and out of control. “Like other addictions, it has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulse. In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping,” says Donald Black, MD (quoted in Hatifield 1-2).
A article by David Futrelle, who is a licensed psychologist and prominent researcher of Shopoholism, states that shopoholism is an impulse control problem rather being an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For an example, a person with OCD will wash their hands and find relief whereas a compulsive shopper will get a high. The euphoria compulsive shoppers feel keeps them coming back for more, and more, and more (Futrelle). Individuals who are compulsive shoppers aren’t able to control their behavior through rational considerations. They will not be concerned if they don’t have enough money to pay.

Since credit is so easily available, it makes it easy for people to spend, but before they know it they will find themselves in debt. The word credit card is in almost every shopaholic’s story. But it’s not credit cards that cause shopping addictions. According to statistics most individuals who develop this addiction are in their early twenties. Normally, this is after they get their first real job and their first credit card. It’s not just shopaholics who have problems spending with credit cards. It’s everyone. Using credit cards is easier, and we feel like we got it for free because no money has come out of our pocket, just not yet anyway. People who use credit instead of cash tend to spend 20%-30% more than someone who is paying with cash” says Gary Herman, director of counseling services for consolidated credit (quoted in Futrelle). With all the spending that’s going on the debt keeps piling up. Individuals won’t know how much debt they are in. Eventually individuals will go into denial on how much they really spent and owe back. People will end up owing back twice as much as they thought they did. Credit cards aren’t to blame for addictive shopping; they just play a big part in a person’s life who is addicted to shopping.
The way malls, stores, and advertisements are set up plays a big part on how people spend. Advertisers influence people to shop and spend more. Malls and shops are set up to attract people with their displays. For instance, people can go into their favorite store and there could be a sale. Of course the shopper will buy more than they really need because they feel like they have gotten a deal. “In a way malls and stores seduce us to buy, and it can lead to an addiction” says James J. Farrell who is a professor of history at St. Olaf College (53-55).
Companies also will use their slogans to get people to buy and spend more. Take BMW for instance, their slogan is “The Ultimate Driving Machine. ” This slogan tricks people into thinking that if they don’t own a BMW then whatever car they do own is not good enough. Other catchy slogans include Levi jeans, “You Walk a Little Taller in Levis” or Visa “Everywhere You Want to be. ” Companies use these tactics to persuade people to spend and spend and spend, attracting the shopalcholics until individuals can’t spend any more. Nine million people in America suffer from shopoholism, and it’s more common in women.
There have been studies conducted to see if addictions are genetic. “About 10%-15% may have a genetic predisposition to an addictive behavior” says Ruth Engs, MD (quoted in Hatifield 1). As reported by Dr. Adrienne Backer “There is a strong link between compulsive shopping and an inadequate maternal relationship (quoted in Futrelle). ” Frequently the mother was depressed or absent emotionally causing the daughter to develop a low self-esteem, resulting in the daughter turning to shopping to feel happy (Futrelle). In reality people who have a shopping addiction are covering up a low self-esteem.
Dr. Louise Chang who is a physician at Grady Memorial hospital states that the endorphins, dopamine, and naturally occurring opiate receptors get switched on in the brain, and people will feel a high that makes them feel good about themselves for that short amount of time while shopping. The causes of addictions and why addicts will continue their destructive behaviors remain uncertain. Most individuals who suffer from compulsive shopping have a history of psychological problems and difficulties at home, and this plays a huge part in forming this compulsion (Chang 1).
There are many warning signs to look out for in individuals who are addicted to shopping. Some of the signs to look out for are spending over budget, compulsive buying, being obsessed with money, and feeling lost without credit cards or cash. Having a shopping addiction will cause arguments with other family members about the individual’s shopping habits. A shopping addiction is a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself. For most people shopping is going to the mall with friends or to buy the latest style, but for compulsive shoppers, shopping makes them feel good.
About ninety years ago German psychologist, Emil Kraepelin defined excessive shopping as an illness calling it “onioman,” (quoted in Velez-Mitchell 20-25) but only recently it’s being understood as a disorder. After individuals shop they feel guilty or depressed about how much they spent. In some cases individuals will feel so guilty they will go back to the store and return the merchandise thinking they will feel relief. Again once they return home they find the guilt has gone away, but then they will feel anxious. The outcome of feeling anxious will lead to another shopping spree.
It’s an ongoing cycle. More than half the time shopping addicts have to hide their problem from loved ones to avoid arguments. Individuals will let merchandise pile up in their car until loved ones aren’t home. Then they take their purchases inside. In marriages, one will have secret bank accounts or credit cards to avoid confrontation with their significant other about spending money. Just like any other addiction it takes a toll on family relationships or personal relationships. Individuals will spend every extra minute they have at the mall instead of being home.
Individuals will also isolate themselves from others because they become preoccupied with their behavior. Before one notices that their partner has a problem, they usually are in debt for $75,000 or more. The husband or wife is equally responsible for the debt their significant other has obtained. Usually this addiction will ruin a relationship, and if one is married it will end with divorce, which is stated by Jane Velez Mitchell who is an awarding winning journalist and bestselling author (192-198). Is there a cure for someone who has a shopping addiction? The answer is yes. The first thing to do it to admit one has a problem.
There are different levels of a shopaholic. Individuals will have to find a debtors anonymous 12 step program to go to. This program is important for ongoing support and maintenance. Individuals will also have to go through credit counseling. “There are no standard treatments for shopping addictions” says Donald Black, MD (quoted in Hatifield 1-2). There is one type of medication that is given to people with a shopping addiction and that is an antidepressant, called Celexa. The cause of a shopping addiction results in the individual being depressed, and they will use shopping to relieve their depression and feel happy.
But antidepressants don’t always work, and many victims they have to go to counseling. For individuals who try to recover from this addiction, it’s a good idea to get rid of check books and credit cards which fuel the problem. People also should not shop by themselves. They should find other meaningful ways to spend their time. With people who have a severe shopping addiction, it’s recommended that someone else controls their finances for them. If someone disagrees with what I’ve written about shopping addictions, they are either an addict or wealthy.
People with shopping addictions or any other addiction don’t realize they have a problem and think they are ok. It’s very hard for one to realize and admit they have a problem. In seeking help for this addiction a person needs to admit they have a problem in order to recover from the addiction. Another type of person who would disagree with a shopping addiction is someone who has money to spend. If an individual has money and can afford going on shopping sprees regularly, then why not buy everything they want. But individuals who are wealthy won’t realize they have a problem, and they could be suffering from depression.
The first thing to do to recover from this addiction is to admit one has a problem, otherwise treatment won’t work. Works Cited Chang, Louise, MD. “The New Addiction. ”WebMD. 2009. Web. 5 July 2011. Farrell, James J. One Nation Under Good. Washington D. C: Smithsonian Books, 2003. Print. Futrelle, David. “Do You Shop Too Much. ” Money Magazine. Money Magazine, 31 Oct. 2003. Web. 1 July 2001. Hatifield, Heather,MD. “Shopping Spree, or Addiction? ” WebMD. 2004. Web. 5 July 2011. Velez-Mitchell, Jane and Sandra Mohr. Addict Nation. Florida: Health Communications, 2011. Print.

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