There is a topic I have been wanting to address, but I don’t like to talk about it. It’s embarrassing and tough to actually face when you have a problem area in life. Shopping addiction. I really dislike the word addiction, and honestly I want to back pedal and say it’s not really an addiction, it’s just a problem. But if I look at the definition of addiction, that is what it was. I say “was,” using past tense because I do feel like I’m recovering. I still struggle sometimes, but I am aware now and that’s half the battle. I’m taking the steps to break the habits that keep me in the cycle of shopping when I don’t need to.
So, the first step to dealing with any bad habit and creating healthier habits in life is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Sometimes we don’t even recognize that certain behaviors are problematic. We live in denial. Perhaps there is a small part of us that knows it’s a problem, but consciously we don’t want to acknowledge it because then we are admitting to a negative behavior pattern and then we have to deal with it.
Just acknowledging it doesn’t change anything though. In order to make changes, we need to come up with practical steps to address the issue. Once I realized I used shopping as a coping mechanism to deal with hardships in life, I came up with a plan to combat that.
About 7 or 8 years ago I came across the concept of minimalism. This idea intrigued me as I have always felt overwhelmed by stuff, especially when things in my physical environment were out of order. I loved the idea of only living with what I loved or what was useful to me! This is when my intentional decluttering journey began.
For several years I felt like I was working so hard at decluttering but I still had a lot of stuff! It was then that I realized in order to really make a difference in minimizing my things I couldn’t just declutter, I also had to curb the inflow! It was then that I decided to do no spend challenges. The first year I did a no spend month in January. I was specifically focused on not purchasing clothes, shoes, and accessories; and also home decor. These were the categories that I saw I had the most inflow. The next year I decided to push myself even further and did no spend January and February. That went fairly well and the following year I extended my no spend challenge through March! Realizing I could make it through a quarter of the year, in 2019 I decided to embark on a no spend year! I continued to specifically focus on clothes, shoes, accessories and home decor. I have this whole process documented here on my blog.
I did want to talk a little bit about the psychology behind shopping addiction. While I did mention that I didn’t really want to claim it as an addiction, but I believed it truly was – I recognize that some people may have much more severe problems with it than I did. As I read through information about shopping addiction, many people have financial problems which propel them into debt because of their shopping habits. Thankfully mine was controlled enough that we don’t have any sort of debt. In addition to this, oftentimes the resulting debt can cause anxiety or depression – causing a cycle of shopping as the person may try to alleviate the feelings with shopping, which causes even more debt. At its worst, it can also cause hoarding tendencies where the items are not even being used, but piling up in the person’s home. According to Donald Black from the University of Iowa, nearly two thirds of all shopaholics have mental health issues like anxiety or depression (source: psychguides.com) In order to really deal with the shopping issue, you must deal with the mental health issues – which are the deeper, root cause.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not officially recognize shopping addiction as a distinct disorder, and considerable debate surrounds the legitimacy of the disorder according to an article from healthline.com. It seems to fall under the category of compulsive behavior, which would be an anxiety disorder. If you are wondering if you might have a shopping addiction, I did find some symptoms from that same article to determine if it is a problem for you.
- obsess over making purchases on a daily or weekly basis
- shop to cope with stress
- max out credit cards or open new ones without paying off previous balances
- feel intense euphoria or excitement after making purchases
- buy unnecessary things or purchase items that go unused
- steal or lie in order to continue shopping
- feel regret or remorse over purchases, but continue to shop
- be unable to pay off debt or manage money
- fail in attempts to stop compulsive shopping
I’m learning that the best way for me personally to combat the negative spending behaviors is to replace those behaviors with positive behaviors which address my anxiety. For me, pursuing creative outlets has helped tremendously! I have enjoyed sharing creative content on YouTube, Instagram, and here on my blog. I have also been pursuing self growth through creating monthly challenges for myself (documented on my YouTube channel), learning new skills through taking Skillshare courses, and watching YouTube videos with self help and psychology content to learn more about why I do the things I do. Finding new behaviors to replace the old ones has helped me to be more intentional with the direction of my life.
I hope this post gave you some encouragement today if you are struggling with out of control shopping. I am by no means perfect yet, and still sometimes struggle with shopping for unhealthy reasons, but I’m aware and making changes!