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We all handle money differently, based on our personalities and life experiences. For some, saving can lend a sense of security; for others, spending can give pleasure. Sadly, for shopaholics — people who spend compulsively despite the consequences — money can be a source of pain, distress and insecurity.
“If money was tight as a child, you may have a scarcity mindset,” says Patrick Durst, a certified financial planner (CFP) at LifeMark Securities Corp. in Centennial, Colorado. “You save every penny and never spend.” Perhaps you could learn to enjoy yourself more if you’re over 50 or already retired and have worked hard all your life.
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Your partner, on the other hand, may be spender or a spendthrift, or someone who enjoys the occasional extravagance. Tess Zigo, a CFP at Emerge Wealth Strategies in Palm Harbor, Florida, says that she and her husband strike a good balance. She’s a saver, and her husband encourages her to spend to enjoy life now—proof that couples can compromise and work through their money issues.
The results of a study published in March in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions indicate that compulsive shopping increased in 2020, during the first six months of the COVID-19 outbreak. The researchers also point out that compulsive shoppers often “have unmanageable amounts of debt, which create economic and emotional problems for themselves and for their families.”
Like alcoholism or drug addiction, compulsive shopping can be a very serious condition, says Lamar Brabham, CEO and founder of the Noel Taylor Agency, a financial services firm in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “If you or your spouse find yourself in debt without the fortitude to control your spending, ask for help. You can recover.” Read the following to learn more.
1. A long-recognized issue
For the record, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not officially classify as a disorder shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder (CBD) or “oniomania.” However, the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin first identified it as a problem long ago—in the early 1900s.
Many experts acknowledge it. A 2007 review of compulsive buying disorder published in World Psychiatry points out that the problem is associated with mood, anxiety, substance use, eating or other disorders of impulse control. It tends to run in families with these disorders.
2. Why some shoppers can’t stop
According to an article published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2016, compulsive buyers make purchases to improve their mood, cope with stress, gain social approval or recognition, and improve their self-image. Instead, they often feel regret, remorse, shame or guilt, and find themselves in financial trouble and in conflict with loved ones. Despite these issues, they shop more.
In 2006, the British researcher Helga Dittmar, a professor of social and applied psychology at the University of Sussex, said that two factors may put people at risk: “highly materialistic values and poor self-image.” Some people view accumulating things as a path to self-improvement.