Confessions of a Shopaholic


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Clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, technology -- buying various types of material goods can be pleasurable for many people, especially if it makes us feel good about ourselves. Although I wouldn't consider myself a "shopaholic," I definitely get a rush from picking out the perfect outfit or snagging an awesome deal. However, there's a clear difference between enjoying shopping and being a "shopaholic," or having a shopping addiction.

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In the article "Addiction to Shopping & Mdash" by Diane Stresing, the abnormal impulse to buy things -- called oniomania -- is considered a compulsive-impulsive behavior. Mental health professionals classify it with impulse control disorders, or (ICDs), including kleptomania and gambling. Studies suggest shopping addiction may be related to other emotions and conditions including anger or feeling out of control, depression or loneliness, and bipolar disorder.

Shopping seems to act like a behavioral antidepressant, giving shopaholics a rush or a high -- much like alcoholics and drug addicts report -- typically followed by a crash with feelings of guilt, fatigue, and more anxiety. Shopping can trigger reactors in the brain, notably the feel-good receptors dopamine and endorphins. When a shopaholic stops shopping, she experiences withdrawal symptoms much like those experienced by substance abusers. Also, because both drug and psychological treatments have proven helpful to those with compulsive shopping and other impulse control disorders, the term "addiction" seems an accurate way to refer to compulsive shopping.

According to the article "The new science behind your spending addiction," as brain scientists are discovering measurable differences between the brains of people who save and those who spend with abandon, particularly in areas of the brain that predict consequences, process the sense of reward, spur motivation, and control memory.

Neuroscientists are mapping the brain's saving and spending circuits so precisely that they have been able to rev up the saving and disable the spending in some people. The result: people's preferences switch from spending like a Rockefeller, to saving like a child of the Depression. This proves that although shopping addictions are a real problem in society, there is a way to calm, and in many cases, stop the addiction.

My question is, if shopping can become an addiction, would the means of coping be similar to those of a recovering drug addict or alcoholic? 

3 Comments

I can completely relate with this blog. While I've gotten a lot better about my urges to buy things, sometimes it honestly feels uncontrollable. I feel like I really do get a high while shopping- and "retail therapy" seems to really work for me. I don't feel super depressed or anxious afterwards, unless I spend way too much. Even little purchases make me happy, I can spend $5 and be thrilled. I think shopping can become an addiction, and I know there are people that put themselves into unbelievable debt and literally have no self control. I think when it's taken to an extreme level, coping can be similar to a recovering drug addict or an alcoholic.

I can completely relate with this blog. While I've gotten a lot better about my urges to buy things, sometimes it honestly feels uncontrollable. I feel like I really do get a high while shopping- and "retail therapy" seems to really work for me. I don't feel super depressed or anxious afterwards, unless I spend way too much. Even little purchases make me happy, I can spend $5 and be thrilled. I think shopping can become an addiction, and I know there are people that put themselves into unbelievable debt and literally have no self control. I think when it's taken to an extreme level, coping can be similar to a recovering drug addict or an alcoholic.

I think the means of coping with a shopping addiction can be similar to those of a recovering drug addict. In my opinion an addict, that’s someone who is unable to control their actions. It may sound funny when you hear someone is a shopping addict but it’s a serious matter. There is even a TV show on Oxygen about this. What do you think?

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