Compulsive Buying Disorder

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

In today’s consumer-driven world, the allure of shopping extends beyond mere necessity; it has become a cultural phenomenon, a source of pleasure, and, for some, an obsession. The relentless pursuit of possessions, the thrill of the hunt, and the rush of acquiring the latest and greatest can all be intoxicating. However, when the joy of shopping transforms into an uncontrollable compulsion, one enters the reality of shopping addiction.

“The Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD) is characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment. Found worldwide, the disorder has a lifetime prevalence of 5.8% in the US general population [1] .” According to the National Library of Medicine [2] , “compulsive buying behavior (CBB) has been recognized as a prevalent mental health disorder, yet this categorization into classification systems remains unsettled.”

According to Mental Health America [3] , there are four stages of compulsive buying:

  1. Anticipation: Thoughts and urges start. They may focus on a specific item or the act of shopping itself.
  2. Preparation: Research and decision-making take place. A person may investigate sales or debate about where to go shopping.
  3. Shopping: Shopping happens. This is the so-called, “thrill of the hunt.” The person gets a “high” while doing it. 
  4. Spending: Something, or many things, are purchased. The person is sad that the shopping experience is over and may be disappointed about how much they’ve spent afterwards.

Additionally, MHA [4]  affirms that “in 2016, Americans spent over $4.8 trillion on retail purchases. That is enough to cover the entire surface of the Earth in $100 bills.”

What are the characteristics of compulsive spending [5] ?

  • Constant preoccupation with shopping
  • Buying things you don’t need
  • Experiencing financial problems due to shopping habits
  • Lying about shopping habits
  • Stealing to continue shopping
  • Shopping despite fears, guilt, or desire to change
  • Shopping to feel normal or regulated
  • Shopping more and more intensely
  • Feeling like you “black out” while shopping

You must pay attention, because “compulsive shopping often coincides with irritation, restlessness, and intense desire. These people often feel they must shop to feel normal. Therefore, going “cold-turkey” from shopping can mimic a withdrawal state. They may experience depression or anxiety, and those symptoms can trigger ongoing relapses [6] ”.

In conclusion, the pursuit of a more balanced and fulfilling life lies in regaining control over one’s impulses and finding healthier ways to channel the desire for fulfillment. Through self-awareness, self-compassion, and a commitment to change, it is possible to overcome the seductive allure of endless shopping and rediscover a sense of wellbeing that is not dependent on material possessions. Remember, the path to recovery may be challenging, but the rewards of a more harmonious and content existence are well worth the effort.








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