Are You a Shopaholic?

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Published September 25, 2012

| FOXBusiness

Shopping to you drop can take on an entirely different meaning for someone who is a shopaholic.

Over-shopping is often glamorized by Hollywood, but for real consumers, the effects are devastating and they end up shopping their way into crippling debt and a drop in their credit score that will haunt them for a long time.

A 2006 Stanford University study classified compulsive overspending as a real disease that impacts about 6% of Americans with men and women suffering equally.

But how do you know if your shopping habits are simply excessive or addictive? Experts say it boils down to why you and how you shop. If shopping is used to fill a void or to boost a bad mood, those are key signs up may have a problem.

 According to Terrence Daryl Shulman, founder and director of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding  and author of Bought Out and $pent! Recovery from Compulsive $hopping and $pending there are seven types of shopaholics. There’s the compulsive shopper that uses shopping as a distraction to their feelings, the trophy shopper who shops to find the perfect accessory for an outfit, the image shopper that buys highly visible things like expensive cars, the bargain shopper that buys stuff they don’t need just because it was on sale, the bulimic shopper that buys and returns over and over again, the codependent shopper that buys for love or approval and the collector shopper that  buys to complete many sets of objects or different colors of the same clothing.

Just like there are many types of shopaholics there’s also many signs you have a problem. Here’s a look at five of them.

Binge Shopping

We’ve all splurged on an item that we really couldn’t afford. But it becomes a problem when the splurge shopping turns into binge shopping that happens all the time.

Experts say it’s normal (but not the best financial move) to splurge on a new car because you need it. It becomes a problem when you purchase a new vehicle you can’t afford when you already have three working cars sitting in your garage.

Shopping Gives You a High

Just like there are adrenaline junkies that seek out risky activities for a rush, for some shopaholics purchasing gives them a feeling of elation. According to Shulman, if your shopping gives you a rush of excitement it may be a sign you have a problem.

Constant Online Shopping

E-commerce is a convenient way to shop, but for shopaholics, it’s another easy venue to spend. According to April Lane Benson,  founder of  Stopping Overshopping and author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop a telltale sign you may have a problem is if you find yourself spending more time and money buying online, in catalogues or on TV shopping channels.

Another warning sign is if you are maxing out your credit cards to make purchases and are increasing your limits so you can acquire more things.

Financial Woes Because of Shopping

Credit card debt is common in today’s economic environment, but if your overspending is causing a financial burden to yourself or worse yet, your family, that could be a red flag that it’s time to get help. 

As yourself: has your shopping ever resulted in problems with your bank? Or have you continued to shop even if  it’s has caused a bankruptcy or divorce? Has it gotten so bad that you’ve stolen from your job to pay off your debts? Answering yes to any of those could signal a shopping problem, experts say.

Relationships Suffering

With most addictions whether it’s alcohol or shopping, a sign that things are spiraling out of control is when it starts to strain your relationships with loves ones and at work.

If your relationships are suffering because of your shopping habits, or you are distracted at work, it may be time to reflect on your behavior. Hiding purchases from your spouse is another sign that things are getting out of hand.

If you feel there is a problem there are things you can do to curb the overspending. Shulman suggests avoiding people and places that will tempt you to spend, cutting up credit cards and closing charge accounts, making lists before shopping and sticking to them, asking yourself if you need it or just want it before making a purchase and finding fun things to fill the time that went to spending. If all of that fails, it may be time to seek professional help. 

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