Shopping addiction: Do you have bad habits or a true addiction?

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We have all spent money on material things we really didn’t need and just had to have, fully aware we should have been putting that money into savings instead. It’s easy to spend money on a whim when consumerism seems to be at the core of American culture. Social events and life goals are often tied to material acquisitions: your first car at 16, celebrating birthdays at nice restaurants, furnishing your first home. We even turn to online shopping when we’re bored!

But when is shopping just an irresponsible, relatively harmless, whim and when is overspending a true sign of addiction? If you feel like your spending habits are ruining your life or you’re concerned a loved one’s buying habits are rendering them helpless, read on to understand the signs of shopping addiction.

Telltale signs of shopoholism

According to Rick Zehr, vice president of addiction and behavioral services at Proctor Hospital at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, the average debt of patients seeking help at his facilities is $70,000. That’s over thirteen times the average credit card limit of Americans with prime (661-780) credit scores, the range between which the average US credit score falls. It’s even higher than the 2015 median US household income of $55,775. Excessive unsecured debt and consistently spending over budget is one of the many signs of shopping addiction.

Other telltale signs include:

• Chronic shopping. Feeling the need to splurge on holiday or birthday gifts for friends and family, occasional retail therapy sessions at the mall, or a few months of going over budget are not considered signs of a life-altering addiction. The shopaholic will feel the need to make extravagant and frivolous purchases year-round. It’s not like binge drinking over the weekend or during spring break- it’s like the need to chug mouth wash in the morning just to get through the day.

• Compulsive spending. Imagine you found the perfect desk chair for your home office. You might already have a desk chair, but it’s not as comfortable, so you buy this perfect chair anyway. This might not have been a necessary purchase, but it isn’t a sign of compulsive behavior. A shopping addict, on the other hand, couldn’t help but feel they need to buy that chair along with ten other styles of chairs to complete their collection, almost like a hoarder that has difficulty letting material things go.

• Lying about purchases. Shopping is shown to release feel-good chemicals in the brain, but shopping addicts will hide their purchases or lie about their true cost because they fear their loved ones will criticize them. Shopaholics could be tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt before their loved ones realize the problem.

Shopping addiction can not only imprison people with debt but also destroy relationships. Addicts will often physically and emotionally isolate themselves as they compulsively plunge deeper into debt and deceive the people they care about to conceal the depth of their problem. They’ll do anything to be able to continue the behavior that sends a surge of feel-good chemicals through their brains, allowing them to momentarily forget life’s problems.

You shouldn’t feel ashamed of your situation. New Era’s team of financial counselors understands that people make mistakes and are often dealing with issues that are beyond their control. We’re here to help you regain control over your life and your finances. Please contact us to begin your journey to a debt free life. You don’t have to go it alone!