We all probably know someone who splurges on a new pair of jeans or a shiny new watch when they’re feeling down. After all, retail therapy is nothing new. You may have even done it yourself at some point. But a new study sheds some light on the problem, suggesting that about 20 million Americans go well beyond retail therapy and straight to an addictive relationship with shopping…one that’s eerily similar to a substance abuse problem.
Addicted to Shopping
The findings, which were published in the American Journal on Addictions, were conducted across the pond by researchers from Hannover Medical School in Germany. The research team analyzed both literature and data from numerous sources published between 1994 and 2013 – all of which related to impulsive or addictive buying issues.
Once all the data had been carefully combed through, the team concluded that roughly 6 or 7 percent of all adults had displayed some form of “compulsive buying.” What’s more, they also determined that the number of Americans and Europeans engaging in this behavior had virtually exploded over the last two decades.
The Rise of Online Shopping
Both psychologists and addiction experts blame online shopping for the rise in compulsive buying. With just the click of a button, shopaholics can feed their addictions in the privacy of their own homes and easily hide the issue from friends or loved ones. For that very reason, support groups and gaining knowledge about this money-draining addiction is essential.
“The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be like crack cocaine for people with an addictive personality. There’s an immediacy that can be a slippery slope,” said Terrance Shulman, founder of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding.
“Shopaholics really benefit from an education and learning what’s leading to this behavior. Cutting up your credit cards isn’t going to do it.”
Reaching Out for Help
Despite old stereotypes, this problem isn’t limited to women. Shulman points out that about 50 percent of all compulsive shoppers in the U.S. are men. The only difference is in what they spend their money on, with men going for larger purchases like new homes, cars and luxury vacations. And perhaps less surprisingly, many of Shulman’s clients developed shopping addictions after overcoming issues with drugs or alcohol.
Although it sounds less severe on paper than say, a substance abuse problem, shopping addiction is very real. And just like drugs or alcohol, it has the ability to ruin lives.
If you or someone you know has an issue with compulsive buying, consider attending a Shopaholics Anonymous meeting in your area to get the tools and support you need to overcome this problem and move forward.
Learn more about the available treatment options for shopping addiction.
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