We live in a society that encourages spending and thrives on consumerism. Every year, advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to convince us that buying things will make us happy or that we need to have the newest products. Unfortunately, the strategy has been very effective. So much so that people with addictive tendencies can cross the line into addiction. And, with the rise of online shopping, it has become even easier to fall into poor spending habits. If you think you have a problem, here’s how you can get help with a spending addiction.
What Is Spending Addiction?
Spending addiction is a broad term that encompasses patterns of both overspending and shopping addiction. However, according to Promises Behavioral Health treatment centers, a spending addiction is a compulsive and mood-altering behavior that involves making unnecessary, emotionally driven, and negatively impactful purchases.
Although it isn’t an officially recognized psychiatric condition, it shares many of the same symptoms and behaviors like other types of addiction. Spending addicts feel the need to shop compulsively as a means to relieve anxiety or make themselves feel better. Many people with a spending addiction also suffer from other mental health conditions.
What Are the Financial Impacts of a Spending Addiction?
In addition to the mental and emotional toll a spending addiction takes, it also has negative financial repercussions. When poor spending habits are left unchecked, it could lead to financial ruin.
The compulsion to spend has led many people to max out their credit cards which ruins their credit and bury them deep in debt. Others resort to taking out loans, lines of credit, or asking loved ones for money to support their habit. 98Those who are desperate enough may resort to illegal ways of supporting their addiction. Some of the long-term consequences of a spending addiction include bad credit, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness, criminal activity, and incarceration.
What Are the Signs of a Spending Addiction?
If you are asking yourself whether you have a spending addiction, it is probably a good sign that you need to re-prioritize your finances. However, it isn’t necessarily a sign of addiction.
The signs of a spending addiction are similar to those dealing with substance disorders or pathological gambling. Although not indicative of a full-blown problem, these are a few of the most common symptoms:
- mental preoccupation with spending
- gradually increasing the frequency of the behavior
- continuing the behavior despite a desire to refrain from it
- feeling distress or discomfort when you refrain from spending
- binging in the compulsive spending behavior
- experiencing a mood alteration or “high” from spending
- failing to fulfill your responsibilities or obligations
- continuing the behavior despite the negative impacts
How Do You Know When to Get Help with a Spending Addiction?
According to surveys and statistics from psychological evaluations, approximately 5-6% of all people are dealing with a spending addiction. It occurs across all demographics and affects people of all classes, backgrounds, and genders.
There are a wide variety of root causes. But, it usually stems from issues related to mental health, stress, grief, or loss. Those with a spending addiction may find themselves in a vicious cycle that can’t break. This can create a sense that they have lost control which perpetuates the cycle.
Those who feel they may suffer from a spending addiction can use the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale as a starting point. It is a clinically recognized tool to assess the severity of your problem.
It’s important to remember that not everyone who frequently shops has an addiction. It’s also important to note that while spending addictions are common among people who suffer from severe depression, anxiety, and other mental/mood disorders, the two are not mutually inclusive.
However, if you think that you have a spending addiction, here is a general checklist of questions that made indicate it is time to seek professional help.
- Is there a compulsion to buy things?
- Do you hide your spending or lead a “double life”?
- Are you spending money to numb your pain or avoid negative feelings?
- Do you rationalize or justify the behavior?
- Does it give you a sense of excitement?
- Do you avoid people who confront you about the behavior?
- Has it had familial, social, occupational, financial, legal, mental, or emotional consequences?
- Have you become more isolated because of it?
- Do you experience feelings of denial, guilt, shame, helplessness, hopelessness, or feeling that your life is unmanageable due to your spending?
- Are you continuing the behavior despite escalating consequences?
Where Can You Get Help?
If you are ready to seek professional help, there are many places you can get help with your spending addiction.
The most effective treatment for addiction is behavioral therapy. This can be either individual or group counseling to establish healthier coping mechanisms for depression, anxiety, or impulse control. It can also incorporate family counseling for those supporting someone seeking treatment.
There are also several self-help and support groups in your community for people who are suffering from addiction. Compulsive Spenders Anonymous, Shopaholics Anonymous, and Debtors Anonymous have been especially helpful for those with a spending addiction. They rely on the same 12-step structure as Alcoholics Anonymous. Membership is usually free and run by fellow members who emphasize group support and sponsorship to cope.
Medication can also be an effective way to help those with underlying mental health issues. Mood-stabilizers and anti-depressants can reduce depression, anxiety, and the compulsion to spend.
While each can be effective on its own, treatment for addiction utilizes several treatment techniques, often used in combination to address the behavior. However, only a licensed professional can help you determine the best treatment for you.
Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article was gathered from medical journals, treatment centers that help those with addiction, and other published materials that have been reviewed by licensed professionals. It is not intended and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. If you are struggling with addiction, talk to your primary physician or other healthcare professionals to get the assistance you need.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.