Addictions- Spending/Shopping

So far, you have read about what makes up an addiction and some relevant addictive behaviors.  Today we will discuss another common addiction that is a prevalent one in many relationships:  Spending or shopping addiction. What are some signs that your spending is more than just leisurely shopping (whether in stores, online, at garage sales, flea markets, auctions,  television, etc.)?

  • Excessive shopping has caused financial difficulties for you, such as:  High credit card debt because of buying things you can't afford, inability to pay bills because you spend money on things that aren't necessities, etc.  Also, you may find yourself making more and more use of credit (opening new credit cards because old credit cards are over their limit or increasing credit limits in order to spend more).
  • You find yourself spending more time/money on shopping than you originally intend to at a given time.  Sometimes people with spending or shopping addictions comment on how they get "lost" in shopping-- feeling a compulsion to continue or feeling like they are in a "trance" or a "zone".  Spending a great amount of time online at places such as eBay, Craigslist, uBid, Amazon, and online stores, to where it interferes with time spent with family and friends.
  • You often go on buying or spending binges with impulsive purchases (again, whether it's in a store, buying online, garage sales or from television), not thinking about the financial consequences or the amount of money you are spending.
  • You hide your purchases from family or friends, minimize or lie about the cost of the items, or hide the bills from purchases from your significant other.
  • You often feel compelled to buy something, even if you don't want it, don't need it, or can't afford it.  Also, spending money on things you don't need, but feeling unable to "pass it up" because it's "such a good deal" or on sale.
  • Someone in your life has confronted you about your spending and you deny the severity of it because you are embarrassed, even though you have a history of not following a budget.
  • You notice (or others notice) that you are using shopping or spending when you are emotionally upset about something.  For example, going shopping or getting online and buying things when you feel lonely, sad, or stressed.
  • You are buying things that you don't have room for in your house, or things that have no use or purpose in your life-- OR you have been confronted by friends and family about all of the "stuff" you are accumulating.  Many times, compulsive shoppers and spenders will "justify" or "rationalize" purchases. 
  • Excessive spending or buying has caused problems with your bank or legally (bad checks, over the limit on courtesy cash or overdraft limits, judgements for unpaid debt, bankruptcy).
  • Excessive spending or buying has caused problems with your job.  For example, shopping online or getting on eBay while at work, where it interferes with your job performance.
  • You feel anxious, guilty or ashamed after buying something.
  • You avoid answering the phone or opening your mail because you don't want to face the consequences of your spending (creditors or collections).
  • Spending money or shopping is a "reward" for "good behavior".
  • You forget about purchases you have made.
  • You find it difficult (if not overwhelmingly impossible) to "browse" without spending.

There are many more signs of spending/shopping addiction, but this is a good place to start!  Do you recognize any of these signs in yourself or someone close to you? Counseling is a great way to identify the why of your spending habits, and to gain insight into the emotions you might be trying to avoid through your spending.  Counseling not only helps you address the addictive behavior, but can also help you in rebuilding and repairing your relationships that have been damaged due to addictive behavior.

Be sure and join us next week, as we continue to discuss more of the most common addictions that we see in our office.  Thank you for reading!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.