Can Spending Be An Addiction?
A spending addiction is a process addiction whereby the individual is addicted to something that is not an addictive substance like alcohol, heroin, or pain medication. Process addictions are also referred to as behavioral addictions or compulsions, as is seen with compulsive shopping or gambling.
There are other terms used in connection with a spending addiction such as compulsive buying disorder or having a shopping addiction. Whichever term is used, the result is the same—a psychological dependence on engaging in the behavior. Spending and shopping go hand in hand in that spending money typically involves the purchase of something. These purchases have no value to the addict. Instead, a spending or shopping addict is fueled by emotions that are not dealt with or processed in a positive way. The shopper has a compulsion to shop and spend money and once engaged in the behavior, the individual typically feels out of control and has subsequent feelings of guilt. In order to overcome the negative feelings of guilt or lack of control, a shopper might have an urge to spend more money to avoid the uncomfortable feelings. Negative consequences such as a bounced check or arguments with loved ones are ignored and the compulsive cycle starts again.
Compulsive spenders and shoppers often experience a similar euphoria or “high” feeling similar to what is experienced with drugs or alcohol. Many people can experience a euphoric feeling such as buying a home for the first time or replacing an older car. The difference between this type of shopping and spending and addictive spending or shopping has to do with how it affects one’s mood. A compulsive spender or shopper will become psychologically dependent on any thought related to spending or shopping.
Shopping and spending money become the outlet for difficult feelings or low self-esteem. Once shopping and spending money has begun, it is difficult to stop. The shopper will feel a temporary high associated with spending money and the brain might even experience a reward. This reward will make the compulsive spender or shopper to return to more shopping and spending. A spending or shopping addict may also experience withdrawals if not able to engage in the behavior. The individual may then experience regret for having missed the possibility of finding great deals or sales.
Treatment for a spending or shopping addiction is available to those who wish to stop the cycle of the addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help to modify problem-shopping behaviors and get the individual on a path to recovery. There are even inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities that help spending and shopping addicts recover. Some individuals may benefit from inpatient treatment as it can provide a controlled environment where shopping or spending money is not accessible, allowing the individual to begin the healing process.