Buying things impulsively doesn’t make you a shopaholic. It’s when your impulsive buys become compulsive buys that the alarm bells should be going off. Feeling better? Good, but that doesn’t mean you are out of the danger zone yet. For those of you aren’t (feeling better, that is) fear not! Help is on its way. Read on to understand the mind of a shopaholic and how to not be one.

What is a Shopaholic? If you are unable to control your spending, that’s the first sign that you are a shopaholic. Shopping works like magic to make you feel better. A shopaholic will experience negative feelings after the high of compulsive spending has passed. Researchers have considered the behavior of compulsive shoppers to that of addicts of far more harmful substances. The difference being that shopping is one of the most reinforced behaviours in our society. It doesn’t have the same level of stigma that makes you want to stop. But don’t be fooled, the physical, financial and emotional consequences are just as deadly.

In the Mind of a Shopaholic: Being a shopaholic is often poorly understood. The true shopaholic is not an evil person. Of course, they are materialistic but surprisingly, don’t care as much about ownership as other buyers. They will often think of buying items as gifts. Often, they simply want approval from others. Lonely and easily influenced, the shopaholic has been commonly found to try to cure their low self esteem by shopping. Shopaholics could suffer from emotional instability or mood swings and often suffer from anxiety or depression. They find impulses difficult to control and have a strong ability to fantasize. This can reinforce their tendency to buy too much.

Effects: Some of the signs that you may be a shopaholic are overspending, lying about or hiding purchases, constant online shopping, chronic shopping and damaged relationships. If you can’t shop, you begin to feel anxious or turn to shopping when you are frustrated or angry. If even one struck a chord with you, then sit up and listen close.

Types: There are the compulsive shoppers who are always online or retreating to the stores when the going gets tough. The bargain shoppers are always looking for a great deal even if it is stuff that they don’t need. Collectors need to have complete sets, colours or styles of clothing or accessories. Image shoppers aim for a particular look, brand or expensive and highly visible stuff. Then there are the impulsive shoppers, the careless ones and the guilty ones. If any or all of these are you, it’s likely you have a problem.

Precautions and Treatments: Understanding that you are a shopaholic is very important. The need to change has to come from you. You will need to cut up your credit cards not matter how useful they are. Always pay by cash from now on. Write down every single expense. Don’t turn a blind eye to even small expenses like a cup of coffee, for instance. Before buying something, ask yourself if you want it or need it. This will help control impulsive purchases. Avoid your shopping hangouts, whether it is a particular website or store, don’t go there! Beating this addiction is tough and asking for help from friends and family could make all the difference.

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