Compulsive shopping or retail therapy?

In a new article on compulsive shopping, there is discussion about including this behavior as a "mental disorder" in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Considered the diagnostic bible of mental health professionals, the new edition is due out in 2010, and there is discussion about including the so-called "behaviorial disorders." This group of disorders includes internet addiction, compulsive gambling, hypersexuality and compulsive shopping.

As a psychotherapist, I have treated compulsive shoppers for many years. All describe the cycle of exitement (buying), remorse (second thoughts), and guilt (low self-esteem) that is common with compulsions. Like a dopamine squirt to the brain, the shopper seeks out the next high with purchases that they don't need, purchased with money they don't have.

Interestingly, some researchers have connected compulsive shopping to sadness. The June issue of Psychological Science, outlines research by Harvard, Stanford, The University of Pittsburg and Carnegie Mellon that demonstrates that people who are sad are more likely to buy. Again, no big surprise. Shopping has long been referred to as "retail therapy" and can offer a healthy release for tension and stress.

The key, of course, is to not get carried away. Some symptoms that may indicate you have a problem:

  • Having arguments with others about your spending habits
  • Feeling lost without credit cards
  • Thinking obsessively about money
  • Lying about your spending
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed or embarrassed about your shopping

Barbara Bartlein is The People Pro. She offers keynotes, seminars and consultation to help you build your business and balance your life. She is the author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Overcoming the Myths That Hinder a Happy Marriage. For Barb's FREE e-mail newsletter, visit: The People Pro.

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