There are times that simply call for more spending. It can be easy to overspend during the holidays, for instance, or life event celebrations (like birthdays and weddings). Frequently going beyond your budget for no immediate or pressing reason, though, hints at a problem especially if you feel that you can’t control it anymore. This problem is known as compulsive spending.
What Is Compulsive Spending?
We’ve all had our impulse buys, but what sets compulsive spending apart? According to Psychology Today, this mental health issue is also called oniomania, or a disorder where a person frequently feels the strong urge to buy something to a point of causing financial problems and psychological strain.
We acknowledge that this issue can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint. After all, the premise of the sales and marketing industry is to persuade you into buying something regardless if you really need it or not, usually in the guise of a “once-in-a-lifetime” deal. Those who don’t have a budget and don’t know what to spend money on are particularly vulnerable.
How Is Shopping Addictive?
It can also be easy to find yourself to be in denial even if you already acknowledge the problem deep down. We believe that one of the reasons why people don’t readily accept shopping as an addiction is the absence of substance abuse.
For instance, it can be easy to recognize being addicted to alcohol or drugs because of the act of actively consuming something. That’s not the case when you’re shopping, right?
Yes, it’s not. However, keep in mind that pleasurable activities (like sex and eating) trigger the release of dopamine, a hormone in charge of sending pleasure signals to our brain. With enough amounts, it is possible to achieve the feeling of being “high” without the help of any chemical substance at all.
The good side of dopamine is it alleviates stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. On the other hand, as the brain gets more used to it, it will eventually require more spending to get that dopamine fix just as how an alcoholic would need to drink more to achieve the highly pleasurable level of inebriation he experienced the previous time.
It Is a Cycle
To make matters worse, according to the National Association for Mental Health, it can lead to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to get out of.
You see, while spending can relieve mental distress, its repercussions, unfortunately, can also cause it. Financial hardship can lead to great stress, anxiety, and frustration.
This poor mental state can then hinder the mental clarity needed to create smart financial decisions that prevent overspending.
The Symptoms of Compulsive Spending
Fortunately, there are ways to recover from compulsive spending. It all starts with recognizing the symptoms and acknowledging that you need help.
In this light, here are some signs that you might be struggling with it:
- Debt. One of the biggest signs that you are a compulsive spender is the accumulation of consumer debt. Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between falling into debt because you were forced to borrow money due to a job loss or family emergency and being in debt due to a credit card bill mostly spent on shoes.
- Guilt. Another sign that you have an unhealthy spending habit is feeling guilty about your purchases, almost to a point that you are hiding them from your loved ones already. It can also manifest as a feeling of overwhelming shame right after purchase.
- Misplaced Excitement. Speaking of purchases, here’s a quick question you can ask yourself after making one: did you enjoy the thrill of hunting the product down and buying it or did you enjoy the feeling of finally owning and using it? Having said that, a quick look around your home may also hint at an underlying issue. Do you have a collection of new and unused things lying around?
- Relief and Dependency. Finally, do you feel an overwhelming sense of relief from buying things regardless if they are useful or not? How would you feel if you weren’t able to purchase it? Would you be devastated if your spending power suddenly disappears? Will you go out of your way to borrow money just to buy something again?
Before moving to the final subtopic, though, we just want to offer a quick disclaimer. We understand that collecting items (such as action figures or art) is a hobby. The challenge is to determine the fine lines that set collectors apart from hoarders and compulsive spenders.
For us, the clue lies in the quality of life achieved after a purchase. A compulsive spender’s joy is short-lived, while a collector’s joy has more depth. A compulsive spender may find himself inadequate to provide for his basic needs, while a collector knows that patiently waiting and saving for an item is part of the fulfilling experience of collecting.
There are different ways to curb overspending. Various interventions are being offered from both the financial and clinical side of things. Ignoring the issue, though, is not ideal.
The Dark Side of Spending
It can be easy to downplay the negative effects of excessive and irresponsible spending. You can always earn the money back, after all…right? Unfortunately, in some cases, the consequences are direr than just having a negative credit score.
In an article published by the Guardian, a closer investigation revealed that the suicide rate due to financial hardship has significantly increased. If you feel that you or a loved one is at risk, then please contact your local suicide prevention hotline immediately.
To Sum up
Overspending is usually considered as a habit brought about by mental health issues. While that is true, it is also important to recognize that it can also happen the other way around: that overspending can lead to poor mental health.
There are different symptoms that may indicate that you are indeed dealing with compulsive spending. Recognizing the existence of the issue is the first step towards getting better.
It is highly recommended to seek professional help. The consequences are dire: bankruptcy, anxiety, and even suicide.