Raising a Happy and Healthy Family

Understanding More About Compulsive Buying Disorder May Help You Understand Your Motivations For Overspending

Do you shop and spend money because it makes you feel better when you're down? Do you spend money you don't have? Do you spend it on things you don't need? If you answered "yes" to these questions, you could be a compulsive spender. However, your reasons for overspending likely point to more than being materialistic.

Just like drinking or gambling, compulsive buying disorder is an addiction; therefore, it isn't easy to stop the behavior. But help is available. If you reach the point where you feel you can't deal with the problem by yourself, a counseling program at a facility like the Center For Behavioral Health can help you overcome your addiction by learning to understand it.

Filling an Emotional Void in Your Life

Many people use compulsive buying to avoid or reduce negative emotions they're experiencing. While shopping and buying may offer relief from what's bothering you, the effect is rarely long lasting. Feelings of euphoria are usually only temporary. Unfortunately, out-of-control spending can lead to a number of negative consequences, many of which may have an extended impact on your life. Potentially harmful effects of compulsive spending include:

  • Feelings of guilt or remorse
  • Sense of disappointment
  • Tendency to lie
  • Damaged relationships
  • Risking your job or career
  • High debt burden
  • Ruined credit

Compulsive shopping offers immediate gratification and often is associated with obsessive-compulsive behaviors or impulsivity—a problem controlling your impulses. For some people, shopping is a way to cope with stress. It's a way of making you feel you have control over your life. But even though compulsive spending may give you an initial high, fallout from the behavior can be destructive.

Inability to Make Decisions

Some compulsive shoppers have trouble making decisions and tend to frequently second-guess the decisions they do make. Although some compulsive spenders make hurried and rash choices, others are chronically indecisive. Identifying which category you fall into is a step toward changing your behavior.

No matter what factors are at the root of your problem, it may help to know you aren't alone. In fact, previous research from the Stanford University School of Medicine estimates that more than one in 20 American adults suffer from compulsive spending and buying.

Goals of Therapy

Therapy helps uncover the underlying reasons for your need to spend money. Once you understand the why, you can then work on overcoming the temptation to constantly buy. Treatment also focuses on getting you to recognize and acknowledge the negative consequences compulsive buying has had on your life.

Additional problem issues that often accompany compulsive spending include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Need to be perfect
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Treatment options may include the use of behavior modification strategies, individual and group counseling, relationship counseling, a 12-step program, and even financial and credit counseling for some people. If compulsive spending is a symptom of depression or other emotional health issue, a mental health professional may prescribe medication for you.


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