Are you a shopaholic? Addiction experts set clinical guidelines for ‘compulsive-buying shopping disorder’

May 27, 2021

Although many people would probably describe their friends, their family members (or even themselves) as “shopaholics,” is there really a way to tell when the occasional spending spree becomes an actual addiction?

Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia say the answer is yes: Indeed, they claim to be the first clinicians to have found a way of diagnosing people who will “shop till they drop,” according to a report by Study Finds.

Their new criteria can determine whether someone suffers from shopping addiction, which scientists refer to as Compulsive-Buying Shopping Disorder.

“In over 20 years, since I started investigating excessive buying, there has been an absence of commonly agreed diagnostic criteria which has hampered the perceived seriousness of the problem, as well as research efforts and consequently the development of evidence-based treatments,” lead author Professor Mike Kyrios says in a university release.

Researchers gathered opinions from 138 experts in over 35 countries to reach a consensus on the criteria. The experts conclude a key feature of a shopping addiction is buying items without ever using them for their intended purpose.

Another characteristic of the disorder is when people use shopping as a feel-good mechanism or to relieve negative emotions. Study authors defined excessive buying as losing control over what items they purchase.

“Clients who show excessive buying behavior commonly have difficulties in regulating their emotions, so buying or shopping is then used to feel better,” Professor Kyrios explains. “Paradoxically, if someone with Compulsive Buying-Shopping Disorder goes on a shopping trip, this will briefly improve their negative feelings, but will soon lead to strong feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment.”

The new framework promises to help people who struggle to manage their spending and mental well-being. Evidence-based criteria for Compulsive Buying-Shopping Disorder is long overdue, the researchers note. Scientists will also need to develop more targeted treatments for this “debilitating” condition.

“This will now be possible with the world’s leading experts agreeing on diagnostic criteria for the disorder.” Professor Kyrios concludes.

The findings appear in theJournal of Behavioral Addictions.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

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