Compulsion to Buy

A buying compulsion, also known as a buying craze or buying frenzy , is the inner compulsion to shop constantly. Those affected suffer from loss of control, withdrawal symptoms and debt. The compulsion to buy is said to have psychosocial causes and can only be treated by psychotherapy.

What is a compulsion to buy?

One of the symptoms of a compulsion to buy is the loss of control over one’s own buying behavior. Because the person concerned buys objects indiscriminately. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Compulsion to Buy.

A psychological disorder is mentioned by consumers as a compulsion to buy. Those affected suffer from a constant, recurring urge to buy products. The compulsion leads to multiple purchases because the person concerned has no control over his behavior. The purchased items are usually not needed.

The act of actually buying is the focus of the compulsion. It relieves inner tension and provides satisfaction. This condition distinguishes a compulsion to buy from a temporary buying frenzy of clinically healthy consumers. Those affected are aware of the futility of buying. Nevertheless, the urge to buy cannot be resisted. If the urge is suppressed, withdrawal symptoms occur.

Causes

There are many reasons for a compulsion to buy. The compulsion can be a valve function for other problems. For example, if the person concerned comforts himself with family or professional problems by buying things. This comforting represents a gratifying situation that makes the consumer feel good. The affected person can transfer the behavior into his everyday life.

Consequently, with every purchase situation, a temporary satisfaction will arise that can become a compulsion. Another cause can be depression and anxiety disorders. In order to get affection, those affected shop excessively. The purchased items are then given away. Those affected hope for relief from their depressive moods.

Emotional trauma can also trigger the compulsion to buy. Parental neglect or overprovisioning can create the compulsion. Childhood sexual abuse can also be a cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In Germany, 9 percent of the population is addicted to shopping. Of those affected, 60 percent are women. The compulsion is independent of the social class.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

One of the symptoms of a compulsion to buy is the loss of control over one’s own buying behavior. Because the person concerned buys objects indiscriminately. Added to this is the compulsion to repeat the shopping trips. While a shopping spree initially satisfied the compulsion, the number soon became insufficient. Therefore, increasing the shopping dose is one of the complaints of a compulsion to buy.

There are also withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, depression, inner restlessness and sweating. Feelings of guilt are also a symptom. In addition to physical complaints, other problems also arise when there is a compulsion to buy. Those affected spend large sums of money through compulsive buying.

Debt and bankruptcy can result. Even the relationship can suffer from the inner, morbid compulsion. After all, problems at work are also a symptom of the compulsion to buy.

Diagnosis & course of disease

A compulsion to buy has a typical course of the disease. It is similar to impulse actions, but is not one of them from a psychiatric point of view. The compulsion to buy arises in the psyche of those affected. There is an inner urge that increases over time. Those who suffer from a compulsion to buy become restless and nervous. The internal pressure leads to tenseness among consumers.

If the pressure can no longer be withstood, people buy indiscriminately and excessively. Items are bought that are not needed. Therefore, many purchased things are not even unpacked and hoarded. There is a risk of developing messie syndrome. Satisfying the urge is important for the compulsion to buy. The act of buying relieves inner tension and gives way to a feeling of happiness.

Sufferers are overly euphoric. However, this state of affairs does not last long. This is typical of the compulsion to buy. A brief gratification of internal pressure is followed by a rapid renewed buildup of tension. The compulsion to buy often occurs in spurts. In one phase, the urge of the person concerned is small and bearable.

During this time, the affected person can lead a normal life. If a buying spurt occurs, the compulsion has control over the person affected. In the advanced stage, the compulsion is hardly controllable.

Complications

The most serious complications that can affect a compulsive consumer are social and financial. The impulse-driven purchase of things, which become increasingly expensive depending on the severity and duration of the shopping addiction, often leads to impoverishment for those affected. In extreme cases, social life and other areas of personal life are adapted to the financial dependencies and those affected find and develop ways in some cases to get more money.

Over-indebtedness through loans – also in the private sector – is accepted and in some cases those affected also steal goods. Since these are the long-term financial consequences, they can have legal consequences even after the start of treatment for the shopping addiction. Even when those affected manage to curb their impulsive buying behavior, they face debt and, in many cases, social isolation.

To make matters worse, shopping addiction is not a strictly classified disease, making it difficult for sufferers to seek help. The spiral of depression and the short-lived feeling of happiness that comes with buying things only gets worse over the years. In addition, as with all addictions, oniomania can relapse despite treatment. Complete abstinence from consumption is not feasible for most people.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who suffer from compulsions should always seek therapeutic help. There is cause for concern when obsessive thoughts are beyond the individual’s control. If the symptoms persist or increase, a doctor is needed. If there are significant impairments in everyday life due to the compulsion to buy, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If the usual obligations can no longer be met, if family or professional responsibilities are neglected, or if the person concerned feels psychological strain, a doctor’s visit is necessary.

In many cases, when there is a compulsion to buy, there is a high level of financial debt, which should be a warning sign for everyone affected or close relatives. Almost daily consumption of objects that do not result in any use should be discussed with a person you trust, such as a doctor or therapist. If not buying leads to withdrawal symptoms, this is alarming. If the person affected in these cases experiences increased stress, sweats, inner restlessness or if he engages in aggressive behavior, he needs help. If he experiences short-term relief when buying items, only to then lapse into hectic activity and the search for new consumer goods, a doctor should be consulted.

Treatment & Therapy

Coping with the compulsion to buy independently and without outside help is very difficult. First of all, the person concerned has to admit his compulsion. The compulsion to buy can only be overcome if the causes become known. Psychotherapeutic support is useful. Together with a psychotherapist, it must be clarified what the person concerned wants to compensate with his purchase.

There is still no targeted therapy against a compulsion to buy, but a psychotherapeutic overall treatment for mental disorders alleviates the symptoms. Instead of buying, the sufferer must find a new, harmless outlet for his urge. Those affected can also visit a self-help group. There, those affected can exchange ideas and learn from each other. The drug treatment of shopping addiction is not common in Germany.

Outlook & Forecast

In most cases, people who suffer from compulsive buying have an unfavorable prognosis if they do not seek psychotherapeutic treatment. Without adequate support, an increase in complaints is to be expected. In most cases, this leads to criminal developments and ultimately to delinquency. Even if access to the Internet, sources of money or other supplying elements is deliberately lost due to the change in living conditions, the person concerned often creates unimagined opportunities to satisfy his shopping spree.

Only a few of those affected manage to free themselves from the compulsion to buy with a strong inner discipline and a stable environment. This depends on the existing personality of the person concerned and the ability to bond with a close person.

The majority of all sufferers experience a stable and sufficient improvement in the obsessive-compulsive disorder as soon as they work specifically with a therapist on the problem. During the treatment, a foundation is laid that enables the person concerned to understand their own behavior and to make changes in their behavior. The changes come gradually and in close cooperation between the patient and the therapist. Without the patient’s cooperation, the chances of success dwindle. If there is insight and a desire for change, there are good prospects for recovery.

Prevention

In order to prevent a compulsion to buy, emotional balance is important. Prevention also includes returning all credit cards. Victims should always pay in cash only. This makes it clear how much money has been spent and when the wallet is empty. If a purchase compulsion is known, closing processes and special sales should be avoided.

The unpacked and unnecessary products that have already been purchased should be distributed visibly around the apartment. These items can be cataloged using a list and carried in the bag. If there is a phase of compulsion to buy, the packed apartment and the long list can have a deterrent effect.

Aftercare

Patients who have been diagnosed with compulsive buying and who have been successfully treated must undergo ongoing follow-up care. Since the compulsion to buy is one of the mental illnesses, no final cure is guaranteed. Instead, there is a constant danger that the apparently healed person will fall back into old, pathological behavior patterns.

This happens in particular through external stress factors, such as difficult life situations or strokes of fate. It is therefore the responsibility of those affected to self-critically observe and question their behavior. As soon as there are signs of a relapse into the compulsion to buy, people should give in immediately.

For example, they can contact their psychotherapist and seek follow-up sessions again. The current stress factors and life situation are analyzed and a relapse is prevented. Some sufferers also benefit from attending self-help groups for follow-up care. Through contact with other former patients, people can view their behavior more self-critically and from a distance and better control recidivism.

In order to keep people stable over the long term after they have been treated for a compulsive purchase, behavioral therapy is also useful, which is continued for some time after the pathological behavior has ended. Such follow-up measures stabilize the psychological state of the patient and reduce the risk of relapse into the old, compulsive behavior.

You can do that yourself

The compulsion to buy as an impulse control disorder is additionally treated by the person concerned even if the problem is recognized. Measures are applied here that are developed as part of talk therapy (group therapy, self-help group or therapeutic individual discussion).

A cornerstone of self-help is also not to pay with debit cards. The mere use of cash already has an effect, as it makes money more conscious, reveals financial limits more quickly and offers a little more incentive to reconsider the purchase decision.

Since the compulsion to buy is usually associated with psychological stress, it makes sense for those affected to look for a job or a social environment in which they can gain recognition and success. This can be hobbies, sports and many other things. According to the assumption that compulsion to buy also serves to suppress negative emotions, positive experiences can prevent the emergence of those very thoughts.

A corresponding therapeutic approach has proven to be effective: finding substitute actions reduces the need for impulsive buying. Accordingly, switching to regular and satisfactory employment for those affected should be encouraged and doubly effective. In addition, those affected should get an overview of the senselessly bought objects and place them in the apartment as a warning. Carrying a list can also protect against the repeated purchase of such an item.

Compulsion to Buy