Obviously, you won’t go through the painful physical withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict as a shopaholic, but those who claim to suffer from the addiction say that it gets in the way of their lives and fulfills a need that they can’t get elsewhere. Similarly to how drug and alcohol addicted people often use substances to escape some sort of pain they’re going through, a shopaholic will often claim that buying a new purse or splurging on shoes makes him or her temporarily forget about his or her problems. Shopaholics also tend to buy things they don’t need and won’t use, as opposed to items they’ll use often or need–think outfits that don’t fit, shoes half a size too small just because they’re on sale, etc.
Docs have developed a prescription for legit shopaholics, because it’s being seen as a compulsive addiction. The medication they’re using is actually one originally developed for Alzheimer’s patients. Does it work?
That depends. After two months, men and women taking the pill reduced the amount of time and money they’d usually blow on shopping. (This doesn’t count for shopping for necessary things like groceries–we’re talking recreational, “dresses you’ll never wear but can’t live without” shopping!).
Dr. Jon Grant, who wrote the shopaholic study, told ABC News, “In a way, compulsive buying is similar to other addictions in that people are thinking about the immediacy of the reward without considering the consequences. We asked: Could we use a medication to essentially enhance decision-making as a way to help them with their behavior?”
We don’t really buy the whole “I’m addicted to buying shoes!” thing, though. It seems like a bit of a cop out from taking responsibility for your own spending habits. If you spend hours a day on Amazon and then suddenly stop, or go to the mall each afternoon and then decide that you’d rather have a life, it’s not going to kill you. It’s sort of like people who are addicted to Facebook: Once you find better things to do, or, in this case, better things to do and better ways to use and manage your money, you’re not really going to miss it. Paying money for a drug won’t teach anyone personal responsibility or how to manage their finances. Understanding the consequences of one’s actions–and delayed gratification (that is, the long term reward vs. a short term rush)–will be more effective, we think, in the long term than a drug in order to cure a shopaholic.
Plus, while we don’t know the specifics of the pill’s clinical tests just yet, we think there may have been a placebo effect at play as well–that’s when someone gives you a pill or medicine that doesn’t actually do anything, but because you think it does, you’re psychologically triggered into making it work or reporting that it does something. So if the self-diagnosed shopaholics took the pill, maybe just knowing they were on medication made them less likely to hit the strip malls.
Even if you think being a shopaholic is a legitimate addiction, you’ll have to wait a bit to get your hands on this magic curing pill for it anyway. So in the meantime, the best cure for being a shopaholic would be therapy (check out Shopaholics Anonymous), learning to balance a checkbook, and finding more fulfilling ways to spend their time.
Do you think being a shopaholic is a real addiction? Are you or a friend considered shopaholics? How do you deal with it? Has anyone ever called you a shopaholic? Tell us in the comments!