Shopping Addiction Causes

shopping mall escalators

At present, no genetic link has been found for shopping addiction – also called, compulsive buying disorder (CB). It is presently considered to be a type of impulse control disorder. It is thought to affect about 1 in 20 Americans. Treatment for compulsive shopping ranges from 12-step programs to medical treatment.

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Triggers for Compulsive Buying Disorder

A trigger is an event or circumstance that leads to unwanted behavior. For CB, some of the triggers are:

  • Emotional deprivation—the ‘thrill’ of CB then fills this hole.
  • The inability to properly cope with difficult issues, such as loneliness, anger or emptiness – using the known routine of shopping helps give a sense of control.
  • A need to distract one’s self from those issues—immersion in the CB behavior.
  • A desire to seek danger—overspending amounts to a ‘safe’ risk.
  • A need or desire for acceptance – the good feeling of participating in a normal social activity.
  • Unlike drug use, shopping is a universal experience. It thus should be noted that there are negative behaviors and reactions associated with shopping that lead to feelings of distress but that do not constitute a shopping addiction, compulsion or disorder, such as buyer’s remorse. Buyer’s remorse is the feeling that a particular purchase was made in error, not that a behavior was inappropriate.

Medical recognition of shopping addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has regarded behavioral disorders like shopping addiction to be reasonable disorders because they share common features with other compulsive behaviors. There is a sense of arousal before going shopping, followed by pleasure or gratification while shopping, and a loss of arousal as well as experiencing feelings of remorse after shopping.

With this in mind, some behaviors and emotions have been associated with a potential cause of shopping addiction:

  • A reaction to disappointment, stress, anger or fear by shopping.
  • A feeling that one’s spending habits are out of control and are causing friction or conflict in one’s family, relationship.
  • Feeling a sense of euphoria as well as anxiety while shopping.
  • Experiencing a sense of getting away with something forbidden while shopping.
  • Feeling severe guilt or remorse about having gone shopping, especially if it contradicts promises made to one’s self or a loved one.
  • Buying things that are never or almost never used—in other words, buying for no reason other than to spend.
  • Lying about one’s extensive shopping habits to friends or family.
  • A preoccupation with credit cards and finances, built around how much one has spent, and how much one will have to spend, on shopping, and creative juggling of various accounts to make shopping possible.
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