Shopping addiction is a disorder that our culture has largely seen fit to smile upon. Feelings of emptiness, low self-esteem, insecurity, boredom, loneliness–or the pursuit of ideal image–can lead people to shopping addictions. But managing these feelings and mood states by becoming a shopaholic can have extremely serious consequences and significantly erode quality of life.
As with most other addictive, impulse control, or compulsive disorders, there is a wide range of effective treatment options for shopaholics: drug treatment, individual, group, and couples therapy, counseling for compulsive buying, Debtors Anonymous, and Simplicity Circles can all be effective. The choice of what form or forms of treatment to use with a particular person is a complex decision that goes well beyond the scope of this overview. For further information about making treatment decisions, consult my own writings, the For Therapists page of my website, http://www.stoppingovershopping.com, as well as the bibliographic references at the end of each chapter in I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self.
Psychotropic medications, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and opiod antagonists have been used to treat shopping addictions, with varying effectiveness. For further details, see McElroy and Goldsmith-Chapter 10 of I Shop, Therefore I Am-and my own treatment chapter in Addiction: A Practical Handbook.
Individual therapy for shopaholics runs the gamut from traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy, with an almost exclusive focus on the underlying dynamics within a historical context, to a very strict focus on the here and now of the problem, with little attention to underlying dynamics. Most people suffering from a shopping addiction need the addition of other specific tools for changing the behavior, including a shopping diary and a spending plan. Some people will need to participate in Debtors Anonymous or group therapy for shopaholics, and/or have counseling specifically geared toward shopping addiction. This is particularly likely if the individual therapist has little experience with the tools of shopping addiction counseling. For further information about individual treatment, please consult the Psychodynamic Theory and Technique section of I Shop, Therefore I Am, or see the individual therapy section of my previously cited treatment chapter.