Are You a Shopaholic? Signs to Know

By Stacey Leasca · May 16, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Are You a Shopaholic? Signs to Know

Shopping can serve several purposes: It provides items that are needed or wanted, and it can fill free time with the fun of cruising around stores and seeing all kinds of interesting new things. Purchasing items, whether online or in person, can also bring a little thrill when you look forward to putting your just-bought shoes or phone to good use.

But there’s also no denying that some people shop too much, too often. Perhaps you tend to hit the stores every single weekend or have tallied up some major debt when taking advantage of “buy one, get one free” sales. The joy of shopping can turn nightmarish when people find themselves in a state of shopaholism.

Read on to learn some of the signs of being a shopaholic and ways to curb that habit.

What Are the Signs of a Shopaholic?

There are people who merely like to shop. Then there are people who compulsively buy because of a disorder known as oniomania. As the journal World Psychiatry explained, oniomania, otherwise known as compulsive buying disorder, is characterized by excessive shopping behavior that leads to “distress or impairment.” The journal noted that those living with it often have a preoccupation with shopping and have a sense of emotional relief after buying something.

Typically, compulsive buying disorder (or CBD) comes with what doctors call “psychiatric comorbidity,” meaning the person usually has another disorder, such as anxiety or a mood disorder. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the journal says compulsive shopping may run in families.

The prevalence of compulsive buying is a bit unknown, though researchers at Stanford University put the figure at about 5% for both men and women. The signs and symptoms are worth looking out for so people can become aware of a potentially dangerous pattern which can ring up credit card debt and cause other issues. Here are some of the more common ones:

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Purchasing Unnecessary Things

Shopaholics often buy items on a whim, and it’s often an item they don’t need. Psychology Today notes that true shopaholics tend to spend money without reflecting on whether they need the item or whether it fits into their monthly budget. That is because it’s not about the item, but rather the euphoria experienced when purchasing the item. This pattern can be used by a shopaholic to fill a need or negate a negative emotion.

The emotional high, though, can be quickly replaced by guilt about spending money without need.

Accumulating Unopened Goods

Another sign of a problem is leaving unopened boxes or bags in the closet or under the bed. Those living with CBD can develop hoarding tendencies as they accumulate more goods than they need and continue buying.

Concealing Shopping Habits

People living with CBD will often try to conceal their shopping habits. This could be because they feel shame, or it could be because they are attempting to hide their purchases from a loved one.

Feeling Regret

People with CBD may feel guilty after spending money, especially when they’ve purchased an item they do not need. They might understand that they didn’t need the item or can’t afford it, or they perceive the purchase as giving in. But remorse can, in turn, force the person back into a negative cycle, as one way a true shopaholic sees a fix is to buy more things.

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Treating Compulsive Shopping

There are no standardized treatments for those living with the disorder, but they can learn to cope. As with many disorders, the first step is for a person to recognize that she or he has a problem. Here are a few ways to recognize and improve shopping patterns.

Tracking Emotional Responses

One way to figure out personal triggers is to track them in a diary. Any time a person feels compelled to buy something, they can write down the time and surrounding details.

They may be able to look back and find they were triggered by an emotional event with a friend or family member or feel anxious about events at work or elsewhere. Or perhaps the person discovers that they tend to shop when bored. This lends insight into what drives them to want to buy and hopefully helps them avoid those triggers in the future.

Seeking Expert Help

If a shopping compulsion is suspected, it may be a good idea to seek expert help. This can include therapy and possibly medication. A professional may be able to help track triggers and help the individual change their behavior. It’s never a bad idea to seek help if you feel you may need it.

Delaying Gratification

Another way to deal with impulsive or compulsive shopping can be to wait before making a purchase. If you see an item you like, it may be a good idea to wait out the immediate emotional thrill of buying. You could ask for the item to be placed on hold for a few days, but sometimes, just a few moments is enough.

Shoppers can choose to leave the store — or the computer if shopping online — and go for a walk. They can then see how they feel about the item after a pause. If they think they need it or genuinely want it, or it will improve some aspect of their lives, then go for it. Otherwise, leave the item.

To really up the ante on waiting for a purchase, try the 30-day rule. Using the practice, shoppers looking to buy a nonessential item must put it back on the shelf and step away for a full 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, if they still want the item, they can return and purchase it.

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Tracking Spending

Buyers who think they may have shopaholic tendencies may be able to know for sure by tracking their spending. Tracking spending can show different shopping habits. It may also be an excellent resource for the aforementioned diary.

By monitoring spending, you can track if there are specific days or times you tend to spend more, or if you tend to spend more at specific stores, and potentially cut back on spending from there.

The Takeaway

An easy way to track spending is with a SoFi Checking and Savings Account. This online checking and savings account allows users to spend and save in one convenient place. Using the app, SoFi members can transfer money to different accounts or pay bills; they can also track weekly spending in the app’s integrated dashboard.

You can also set up specific budgets and savings goals using Vaults. What’s more, SoFi Checking and Savings charges no account fees and offers a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), both of which can help your money grow faster.

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