Getting help and treatment for your shopping addiction

A review article published in World Psychiatry in 2007 estimated that approximately 6% of Americans are faced with a compulsive shopping problem at some point in their lives. Other studies report a higher percentage, depending on the method of study.

Just like any other addiction, people with a shopping addiction go to great lengths to hide their shopping activities and purchases. Many people often do not face their shopping problems until they run up a substantial credit card debt and reach a "dead end," finding themselves liable to serious financial consequences. This can lead to other damaging personal setbacks, such as losing the trust of loved ones when they find out or even losing a job or a home.

The first step to getting help is to acknowledge that you have a shopping problem. Once you've taken this giant step, you will have the motivation to look for help.

While there is no standardized method for treating shopping addiction, the two main forms of therapy are medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

Various clinical studies have taken place to evaluate the effectiveness of medication therapy normally used to treat anxiety and depression. The results of medication as treatment for shopping addiction, however, are mixed.

A common method of treatment is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).  CBT is a general term that describes the process of identifying and correcting problems associated with the way you think, behave, and feel, all of which may be contributing to your addictive or compulsive behaviours.

The focus of CBT is on issues that stem from within you rather than external influences. Taking quality time with professional help, self-help, loved ones, or those in similar situations to sort out your feelings, emotions, and history can get you started on the road to healing.

Therapy programs may be guided by an appropriate professional (such as a psychologist, therapist, or counsellor), self-help efforts (i.e., self-help books, keeping a shopping diary), or volunteer or charity programs that offer support and provide realistic steps on how to curb the compulsion to shop (i.e., Debtors Anonymous, Credit Canada).

Effective CBT would ideally include a tailored combination of all these programs that best fit your needs. It will also include addressing areas of your life that have been affected by a shopping addiction, such as considering marriage counselling and financial counselling.

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