9 Ways to Tell if You’re a Compulsive Spender

By Amanda Weiss

Shopping can be a different sort of activity for different people. Some enjoy spending time with friends browsing stores, and others simply see it as a necessity. Whichever way you see it though, it is impossible to get by without spending money. That being said, shopping too much can cause major financial problems. For some people, shopping becomes an addiction, and they cannot control their impulses to buy things. If you find that you have become a true shopaholic, it is wise to try to correct your behavior before it leads to negative consequences. As a start to your evaluation, here are 9 ways to tell if you’re a compulsive spender.

1) Lying About Shopping Habits

One of the telltale signs that your spending is out of control is lying. If you feel like you must hide your habits, then it seems you are subconsciously aware something is amiss. When your shopping reaches the point where others would find it absurd, you need to make some changes. As with any bout of dishonesty, lying about your spending can cause relationship problems. If you share financial means with another person, they will wonder about the high bills. Even if you don’t share funds with someone, lying can lead to loss of trust. If the people around you no longer trust you, you will not be able to rely on them for support. And if you are trying to get to the root of your shopping addiction, emotional support is necessary.


2) Feeling Guilty After Shopping

Shopping can be a source of relief and happiness for many people. This is because it can be nice to have something new, especially if you have saved up for it. So, if you begin to feel guilty after your purchases, something is likely problematic. Shopping guilt may pop up if you are spending a lot of money on things you don’t need. After all, necessities and occasional splurges are unlikely to trigger negative emotions. If the problem is particularly bad, you may end up crying or feeling like you need to return all that you bought. Even if you do make returns, you may end up repeating the same actions again. It can create a negative cycle from which escape is difficult. If this sounds like you, it is important to acknowledge that your shopping habits aren’t healthy.


3) Unpleasant Emotions Lead You to Shopping

As with many addictions, compulsive shopping can begin from a desire to escape negative emotions. These can include anger, frustration, loneliness, and self-doubt. As such, negative experiences such as arguments or other conflicts can set people off on a shopping binge. For some people, the act of shopping itself can temporarily tame these bad feelings. There can be a measure of self-satisfaction in finding items that suit oneself. However, spending money constantly to cover up feeling bad is not a good coping mechanism. Shopping does not address the problems that lead to those emotions in the first place. That is why to reduce compulsive spending habits, it may help to identify what is making you feel bad in your life. Once you do this, you can talk to someone to figure out a better way to remedy the issue.


4) Blaming Others and Rationalizing Your Spending

A hallmark sign of addiction is using what is called “thinking errors” to justify the addictive behavior. This is just as applicable for compulsive spending as for other addictions. One of the primary “errors” is blaming other people for your behavior. For instance, a shopping addict may try to push fault onto a friend or family member. They may claim that they are shopping because of something one of those people did or said. Additionally, compulsive shoppers may rationalize their behavior. Usually, the actions we take are the result of a particular cause. Rationalizing involves concocting a false explanation for an undesirable action that paints the addict in a less negative light. These mental gymnastics are problematic because they can prevent the spender from realizing how bad the issue really is.


5) Nonselective Purchasing

In a case of compulsive shopping, it may not be particularly important what items are being bought. In fact, for the spending addict, the very fact of buying is more important than the items they buy. Resultantly, shopaholics might end up purchasing items that have no use to them simply for the sake of buying them. This can be a hint to help you determine whether you have a problem. Usually, if a purchase is specific, we can justify or rationalize buying it. However, if you notice you are buying things without any valid reason, it can serve as a red flag. Inane purchases like these are also more likely to be noticed by those around you. Therefore, if you find yourself with junk you couldn’t possibly need, you may be made aware that you need help.


6) Prioritizing Shopping Over Your Relationships

One of the most important aspects of life is interpersonal relationships. The people around you are your support system and activity-mates. So, if your shopping gets in the way of those relationships, it is a sign that something’s wrong. Compulsive shopping can cause you to push people away, especially if they question your habits. You may also end up out shopping rather than attending family events. This could make it seem as though you do not care about these important events because you’re at the mercy of your addiction. This can cause a rift between you, since others probably won’t understand your compulsion. Unfortunately, this may result in you losing their support when you need it most. Therefore, if those around you are concerned about your shopping habits, you should pay attention.


7) Getting a “High” from Shopping

If you are a shopaholic, you may be familiar with getting a rush of excitement upon making a purchase. This feeling can be brought on by the very act of buying something. Therefore, if you are trying to escape negative feelings, you may constantly buy things to experience this “high.” That is why compulsive spenders may end up with so many things they don’t need. It is not the owning of things that triggers this feeling, but the act of purchasing itself. There is also biochemical evidence supporting this. According to the Huffington Post, some experts say that shopping and buying releases dopamine. This neurotransmitter chemical stimulates pleasure centers in the brain, which makes the person feel good. As with drugs that have this effect, the feeling can become addictive, driving someone to seek it out again.


8) Financial Struggles from Your Spending Habits

Since compulsive shoppers tend to spend a lot of money, they often end up with financial difficulties. The act of constantly buying requires a constant supply of money. Especially if a shopaholic tends to buy expensive things, debt can become a very real consequence. If you are a compulsive spender, you may notice that you max out your credit cards and scrape into your savings. Needless to say, if this persists, it can have lasting effects on your life. If you go into debt while still suffering the compulsion, it can be extremely difficult to get out. The stress from watching your finances go downhill may only lead you to shop more. Eventually, you may end up not being able to afford all the resources you truly need to get by.


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