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Addicted to spending money: Signs, symptoms and next steps

Shopping addiction, which is also known as compulsive shopping disorder, is where the desire to make purchases or spend money becomes so great that it causes you to lose control over whether you act on these urges or not.

In recent years, shopping addiction has come to incorporate online shopping, as well as ‘face-to-face’ transactions. As people spend an increasing amount of time online, shopping addiction is an issue people are facing more than ever. Read more about the signs and symptoms below, along with the support that is available here at Manor Clinic.

Can you be addicted to spending money?

When something becomes a habit, you feel powerless to stop. This can include spending money and shopping.

If you are addicted to spending money, and are finding that it is affecting your finances, relationships, health and quality of life, this is just as serious as any other addiction.

As with any other addiction, you can receive support and treatment to help you recover. With access to the right therapeutic treatment you can work to identify the psychological reasons for your addiction, address your triggers for spending money and break your reliance on doing so as a way to cope.

What causes shopping addiction?

The underlying causes of shopping addiction are different from person to person.

Studies have reported that between 10% and 15% of people are susceptible to becoming addicted to the feel-good chemicals released by the brain. This can cause a person to develop a shopping addiction, where they make repeated purchases to feel that same short-lived high again and again.

A shopping addiction can also be a way for a person to cope with difficult emotions, feelings or memories. It can become a way of numbing and muting pain or distress. However, it is an unhealthy coping strategy that doesn’t effectively deal with this pain or distress and can also lead to a person feeling worse in the long term.

The signs of shopping addiction

Here are some of the signs to look out for if you think that you, or anyone you know, may have a shopping addiction:

  • Spending over and above your budget, or ignoring your budget
  • Making unnecessary purchases, or buying increased amounts of something you already have
  • Feeling that shopping makes you happy for a while, but finding that this feeling never lasts
  • Having lots of items, sometimes with the tags still on, in wardrobes and cupboards
  • Trying to justify purchases, potentially saying things such as “I don’t see the problem; it’s my money to spend as I like”
  • Feeling unable to stop shopping or spending despite wanting to
  • Getting angry at spending limitations imposed by others
  • Becoming increasingly secretive around shopping habits or finances, or both

The effects of a shopping addiction

Shopping provides people with an instant reward and a short-lived mood boost.

When you start to crave this feeling, where you make repeat purchases on an increasingly regular basis, the initial rush of buying something can start to give way to feelings of guilt and shame. This can lead to a vicious circle, where you attempt to counteract these negative emotions by shopping again in order to return to the temporary excitement.

When you are addicted to shopping, the real-world effects of the addiction can include:

  • Financial strain – shopping addiction can lead to debt from credit cards, store cards, loans and overdrafts
  • Relationship problems - it can place a significant strain on your relationships. This can happen for a number of reasons, including the secrecy, isolation and emotional pain caused by the addiction. If family or friends have noticed that there’s an issue, this may have also started to put added pressure on your relationships
  • Worsening mental health - addiction itself can place a significant strain on your mental health, leaving you feeling sad, stressed and anxious. If you are using shopping as a way to deal with difficult emotions you were already experiencing, your addiction can also leave you feeling worse or even depressed overtime

Next steps for treating shopping addiction

The first step in overcoming shopping addiction is to acknowledge your need for support. Then, it is important to open up to someone you trust. They can help you through the process as you seek professional treatment in order to recover from your active addiction.

At Manor Clinic, we’ve treated many people with shopping addiction and helped them to live a more fulfilling life. It’s perfectly possible for you to achieve long-term recovery too. Our specialists are experienced in providing therapy to help you work through your current challenges. We offer a 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme within our comfortable treatment centre. Our programme includes structured group therapy, a family programme, 12-Step support groups and free aftercare for life.

For more details please call 023 8046 4721 or click here to book a FREE CONFIDENTIAL ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. Alternatively, you can enquire online and one of our team will get back to you via your preferred contact method.  

COVID-19 Update

We continue to accept admissions into our treatment programmes but are adopting screening protocols through the pre-admission process. In order to protect our patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19, we have temporarily suspended family visits to those within our services. All patients will be supported to speak to their family over the phone and via video calls wherever possible.

This blog was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman, (Emotional Freedom Technique Master Practitioner (EFT), Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) NCAC), Addiction Treatment Programme Manager at Manor Clinic.

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