Let’s start by understanding shopping as a compulsive behavior. Similar to eating disorders, compulsive shopping is a dysfunctional way to manage difficult feelings. Before the purchase, the shopper may be experiencing feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, disempowerment, or deprivation. In order to mask these seemingly intolerable feelings, the shopper gives into the impulse to buy something they may not need or be able to afford. The shopper then feels euphoric during and immediately after the shopping, but these feelings quickly give way to guilt, depression, and the other feelings they were trying to avoid. They may, in fact, look at their new 12-piece place-setting of green vintage Fiestaware, or their 12-piece drill set, and think: “why did I buy this?”
Six Signs of Compulsive Shopping
Your spouse may be engaging in shopping as a compulsive behavior if they…
– Buy items on credit that can’t be bought with cash;
– Juggle accounts and bills to keep up with spending;
– Argue with you defensively about their spending habits;
– Lie to you about purchases they made;
– Create emotional distress in your marriage as a result of their shopping; and
– Shop and spend as the result of anger, fear, disappointment, longing, or any feeling
For information on how to safeguard your marriage from compulsive shopping, read our companion blog: Spouse A Compulsive Shopper? Six Top Tips For Staying Sane…And Happily Married!
Coping with a Compulsive Shopper Spouse
Admonishing a compulsive shopper for overspending is like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking. The problem is not the shopping – it’s the feelings that fuel the shopping. Studies have shown that compulsive shoppers have a family history of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. In order for a person to change their spending habits, they must first get treatment for their underlying psychological and psychiatric disorders. For example, technology makes it even easier for compulsive shoppers to overspend. With online purchases just a click away, people can get their shopping fix without leaving the house. Those with social anxiety may especially at risk for developing an online shopping addiction because they can avoid the overstimulation of crowds and malls.
Consulting with a psychiatrist is essential to rule out serious mental illness such as Bipolar Disorder, which often causes reckless spending and creation of debt. Treatment for compulsive shopping may include psychotropic medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and a 12-step group such as Debtors Anonymous.
Dealing with a spouse’s compulsive behaviors and addictions can put undeniable strain on a marriage. To explore your legal options, including reconciliation, we encourage you to speak with one of our compassionate family law attorneys. Please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. There is no obligation and the information you share is completely confidential.