The First Step
The first step in treating shopping addiction is to create an inventory of the problem. The purpose is to bring out clearly what the behavior is and the damage it is causing. This is essential for patients – they must come to terms with their compulsive shopping, or compulsive buying (CB) and recognize they have a real need for change.
Next Steps for Shopping Addiction Treatment
There are support groups available online including Compulsive Shopping at Support Groups.com and informal 12-step programs such as Spenders Anonymous, a program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.
More formal shopping addiction treatment exists and parallels that used for other compulsive disorders, such as gambling. One primary task is to remove all access to the resources needed to indulge in the habit. This means cutting off funding, along with monitoring by a responsible, neutral party. While this step is necessary, it does little to treat the causes of compulsive spending.
Psychologists recognize the difficulties faced by CB and treat it with therapy designed to develop other, healthy habits while addressing underlying problems. They attempt to identify triggers of the behavior and retrain patients. This may involve one on one counseling along with group therapy. Medication to reduce anxiety or depression might be helpful in some cases.
It is unlikely that someone suffering from CB will simply stop based on willpower alone. What can happen is a series of battles with loved ones. Significant others rarely understand the nature of compulsion and generally see it as a character flaw or a lack of responsibility. Unfortunately, this can mean the behavior continues until it ruins finances and family relationships. Early intervention holds out the best hope.
photo by Paul Szustka