By Margarita Nahapetyan
For many people shopping is considered to be one of the favorite pastimes. For most of them it is just buying some new clothes or presents for close people. But there is another category for whom shopping is much more than just enjoyable pastime, it is a real addiction that in many cases leads to a financial disaster, as well as it brings chaos to person's life and family.
Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as excessive and out of control. Like any other addiction, it mostly has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one's impulses. Addicts often run their credit cards up to the limit, they believe that if they shop they will feel better. But compulsive shopping and spending generally makes a person feel worse. It is very similar to other addictive behaviors and has some of the same characteristics as drinking addiction, gambling and overeating addictions.
So why shopping can be so addictive? What are the possible signs to be aware of? And how is it possible to stop the need of spending?
"No one knows exactly what causes addictive behaviors, like shopping, alcoholism, drug abuse, and gambling," says Ruth Engs, EdD, a professor of applied health science at Indiana University. "Some of the new evidence suggests that some people, maybe 10%-15%, may have a genetic predisposition to an addictive behavior, coupled with an environment in which the particular behavior is triggered, but no one really knows why."
However, it is much better understood as to why "shopaholics" continue with their unhealthy and destructive behaviors. Individuals get pleasure from their addiction the same way as if they were under drugs. Experts say that endorphins and dopamine, which naturally occur opiate receptor sites in the brain, "get switched on, and the person feels good, and if it feels good they are more likely to do it - it's reinforced."
And when is it really possible to determine whether simple shopping has crossed the border and has already turned into addiction?
Shopaholics go out and buy things much more often than other people do. They often buy things they do not need. Many shopping addicts go on shopping binges all year long and may be compulsive about buying certain items, such as shoes, clothing or kitchen items. Some just will buy anything. Many times they will spend over their budget limits and get into deep financial trouble, spending well above their income. While someone else will think many times if they can afford this or that thing, shop addicts will not recognize the boundaries of a budget.
Women with this compulsive disorder often have piles of clothes and shoes that have never been used. They usually go shopping with the intention to buy one or two items and end up with multiple bags of purchases. They also often hide the things they buy in order not to be criticized by other family members. Shopohilics often deny their problem and cover up their debts with deception. They spend a lot of time away from home, and both emotionally and physically isolate themselves from others, what in some families even leads to a divorce. Therefore, the answer is - if people are no longer capable to control their shopping but their shopping is in control of them, they've crossed the line and became addicts.
Compulsive shopping or spending can occur when a person feels depressed, lonely or angry. Shopping and spending will not assure more love, or heal the hurts, regrets, stress, and the problems of everyday life. Just the opposite, it eventually will make these feelings worse because of the increased financial problems the person has obtained from this addiction.Many sufferers are multi-addicted, often having a problem with drugs, gambling, alcohol in addition to the compulsive spending.
Treating a shopping addiction requires a multifaceted approach. Experts say that there is no standard treatment for it and that there is no easy answer that any treatment will immediately cure and help. The best thing to start with is to recognize the problem by addicts themselves. First of all, they need to stop using their credit cards, and instead, start paying by cash, checks or debit cards. It might be useful to make a shopping list in order to buy strictly what is needed. It is necessary to avoid all the discount warehouses and catalog, or phone ordering. And if there is a chance to get tempted it might help to have just some small money and leave a wallet at home. It is also good to ask family and friends for support. And if after all this people still feel out of control, then it is recommended to seek professional counseling or a self-help group to deal with this problem.
The despair can be ended through successful treatment and people can be brought back completely to normal life. And as with other addictions, success follows the seeking of help from others and an honest admittance of a problem.