shopping2Anything that can alter our mood, (and, interestingly, not always to feel better) can become the object of our addiction.  Compulsive behavior comes in many forms, Roger’s recent KSL article (http://www.ksl.com) explores shopping addictions.

It sounded like a self-introduction you would hear at any other 12 step meeting, “My name is Buzz, and I am” … and here is where it changes, “a shopaholic.” Eyes may roll and heads shake at that declaration. “Does everything have to be an addiction these days?” skeptics ask.

Buzz elaborates and repeats his declaration, “In the past few years, I’ve bought 81 leather jackets. Dozens of boots and leather gloves. I’ve purchased pants that cost $5,000. I own a $22,000 coat. This winter (I) began to seriously grapple, once and for all, with a compulsion that could cost me more than just my life savings. My name is Buzz Bissinger. I am 58 years old, the best-selling author of ‘Friday Night Lights,’ father of three, husband. And I am a shopaholic.”

Bissinger recently “came out of the closet” about his shopping addiction, but he is far from being alone in his struggle with compulsive shopping. Both sexes and all socio-economic backgrounds can choose shopping as their “drug of choice.” About 6 percent of women and 5.5 percent of men are compulsive buyers, according to a 2006 study from Stanford University published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

How did Bissinger know he had a problem? When he pulled up his expense records for 2010 to 2012 and found his expenditures for clothes totaled a whopping $587,492.97.

But shopping, really? Aren’t we just carrying this addiction thing a little too far? Not according to the experts. Stephanie Brown, Ph.D., indicates, “Addiction can occur in whatever generates significant mood alteration.”

Dr. Donald Black, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, tells us more about the behavior, “Most compulsive shoppers are not famous, they’re not wealthy. They’re just ordinary people with an unusual problem.”

He offers a definition, “Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as inappropriate, excessive and out of control. Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses. In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping.”

“For compulsive shoppers, buying something creates a feeling related to the euphoria that alcohol induces,” said Bonny Forrest, a San Diego psychologist. “As with alcoholics, it’s hard to keep away from that rush of pleasure.”

April Lane Benson, Ph.D. and author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop,” says, “Shopping can be an important source of self-definition, self-expression, creativity, even healing. Done to excess, however, it can spin out of control and lead to serious problems, eroding rather than enhancing your quality of life. The more you use shopping as an attempt to fill an inner void, manage your feelings, repair your mood, or pursue a ‘perfect’ image, the more likely it is that you need to take a closer look at what this behavior is costing you.”

Benson also holds the view that one third of compulsive buyers eventually evolve into hoarders. Others simply get rid of old items as they buy new ones, but some shopaholics are called “return-aholics.” They max out credit cards shopping and then return the items by month’s end to pay the credit card bill.

Another segment of the shopaholic group buys not for themselves but for others, in effect “double dipping” in the feel-good brain chemicals, enjoying the rush of “shopping” and “giving” highs.

The website www.shopaholicnomore.com offers the following self test questions to determine if your shopping is problematic.

  • Do you often go on buying binges?
  • Do you find yourself spending more time and/or money buying on the Internet, in catalogs or on the shopping channels than you want to? Do you find yourself making more and more use of credit — acquiring more cards, increasing your credit limit, etc.?
  • Have any of your purchases ever resulted in problems with your bank or legal problems?
  • Are your relationships with family and friends or is your job performance suffering because of your buying?
  • Do you hide your purchases and shopping trips from family or friends?
  • Are you not opening your mail or answering your phone because you don’t want to face the consequences of your buying?
  • Do others consider you a shopaholic?
  • Does much of your life center around buying things?
  • Is shopping a way of facing the stress of your daily life or to make yourself feel better?