The holidays are upon us, and with them come plenty of advertisements encouraging you to shop and spend. If you’re like some people, you may be tempted to buy more than you need, and you may even treat yourself to an unnecessary purchase just to boost your mood. Although this kind of shopping is often lightly referred to as retail therapy, for some people it can lead to compulsive buying disorder (CBD), or a preoccupation with shopping and buying. This type of behavior can be especially difficult to cope with during the holiday season.
Not sure if your love of shopping has reached addictive proportions? Here are some signs to watch for:
- Emotional risk factors. If you struggle with compulsive buying disorder, it may be the result of low self-esteem or other negative feelings. If that’s the case, you may be shopping to feel better about yourself, gain attention from others, or to alleviate boredom. This type of behavior is often associated with anxiety and depression.
- Preoccupation with shopping. Maybe you spend a great deal of time shopping or thinking about your next purchase. This consumes time and energy that may interfere with other areas of your life that demand your attention, such as school, work, family, and other relationships.
- Unnecessary and unaffordable purchases: While some shoppers buy only what they need and can afford, that’s not the case for someone with a compulsive buying disorder. If you’re addicted to shopping, it could interfere with your ability to pay your bills. You could even take on excessive debt to support a spending habit that is out of control.
- Secret shopping: Most addicts hide their addictions, and shopping is no exception. If you’re feeling guilty, stressed, or struggling to cope with life’s many challenges, you may be driven to shop secretly and more frequently. That’s easier than ever with online shopping at your fingertips 24/7.
What you can do to curb the problem:
- Unsubscribe from promotional emails
- Unfollow certain brands on social media
- Join a support group of like-minded individuals
- Find something else to do, such as a hobby or volunteering
If you or someone you know continues to struggle with a shopping addiction, it may be time to seek professional help. Depending on the symptoms and severity, a mental health professional may recommend therapy, medications, or a combination of the two for treatment. Psychotherapy can help you understand why you’re compelled to shop—and how to stop. Antidepressants can help control compulsive behaviors and treat their underlying causes, such as anxiety or depression.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.