What is Compulsive Spending?

B. Miller

Compulsive spending is a type of addiction characterized by shopping or spending money excessively, and in an inappropriate manner based on one's finances. For instance, many people who are compulsive shoppers go far into credit card debt, and often end up declaring bankruptcy if the shopping cannot be brought under control. Compulsive spending is a fairly common problem, especially with the ease with which people can obtain credit or debit cards, and rack up large amounts of debt yet only pay the minimum balance each month. Cognitive and behavioral therapy is often required for people who cannot control their shopping addiction themselves.

Compulsive shoppers may frequently purchase clothes.
Compulsive shoppers may frequently purchase clothes.

There are many different forms of compulsive shopping, and an individual with this affliction does not necessarily have to be making purchases for him or herself. Some people constantly buy expensive gifts for their friends and family, for example. Others will become focused on purchasing items for the home, or making home improvements that simply cannot be afforded. Of course, some people will simply purchase items for themselves, such as clothing, electronics, or jewelry. The reasons for compulsive spending can also differ for individual people.

Shopping can take the form of an addiction, often with the individual spending beyond their means.
Shopping can take the form of an addiction, often with the individual spending beyond their means.

Some people find that compulsive shopping helps to calm their anxiety; since it becomes a habit and an addiction, they may feel stressed or upset if they have not purchased something recently. Others use it to improve their self esteem and buy nice things to help them feel better about themselves, particularly if something goes wrong in life, such as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship. There are numerous reasons that compulsive spending might begin, and once it becomes an addiction, it is difficult to stop without help.

Spending excessive amounts of money on electronics may be a sign of compulsive spending.
Spending excessive amounts of money on electronics may be a sign of compulsive spending.

Various techniques used to stop compulsive spending. Some people find that canceling and cutting up the credit cards can help to break the cycle, since any items must be purchased with cash; some also find it necessary to get rid of a debit card associated with a checking account since it is too easy to overdraw the account with it. Support groups for shopping addictions exist as well, which can be a helpful avenue for people who cannot afford therapy, or who want to supplement their therapy with additional resources. Psychotherapy is one of the most effective methods for ending compulsive spending, since the therapist can help to address the root cause of the addiction rather than simply stopping the behavior without solving the problem.

People might compulsively spend their money on the latest tech gadgets.
People might compulsively spend their money on the latest tech gadgets.
Compulsive spending is more likely to be done by someone with a credit card than cash.
Compulsive spending is more likely to be done by someone with a credit card than cash.
Compulsive spending includes going out to eat and drink at local restaurants.
Compulsive spending includes going out to eat and drink at local restaurants.
High priced coffee is one item that people compulsively buy.
High priced coffee is one item that people compulsively buy.
Some people find that cutting up their credit cards can help to break the compulsive spending cycle.
Some people find that cutting up their credit cards can help to break the compulsive spending cycle.

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