6% of Americans are affected by an uncategorized disorder that involves compulsive shopping

ShoppingSamir Hussein/GettyShoppers walk down Oxford Street during American Express Shop West End VIP Weekend on DECEMBER 10, 2011 in London, England

Many Americans are not spending money on apparel.

But some of us may instead find ourselves powerless to stop.

The American Journal of Psychiatry estimates that an uncategorized disorder known as compulsive buying disorder may be found in roughly 5.8% of the population. And as Cameron Wolf writes for Racked, it’s easier to than ever to fall victim to impulses; ubiquitous ‘buy’ buttons can be alluring.

Although colloquially referred to as a ‘shopping addiction,’ the disorder is not technically an addiction, according to the diagnostic psychiatry guide book DSM-V. (While the term ‘addiction,’ has been applied to one’s inability to control his or her use of drugs and alcohol, the only behaviour to be classified officially as an addiction is gambling).

That said, it doesn’t mean the problem isn’t real, but it could make it harder to treat.

Another problem with this compulsion, Wolf writes, is that it’s often treated with levity, thereby perpetuating the issue. Consider haul videos, which celebrate making excessive purchases.

Additionally, the condition undoubtedly can cause problems beyond debt — including tarnished relationships.

Fortunately, there are programs and doctors who are now addressing it.

The Shulman Center in Detroit aims to help people overcome their compulsive buying, and Racked points to Dr. April Benson, whose program, Stopping Overshopping, aims to help ‘shopaholics’ recover from their fiscally detrimental habits. The website itself is free, but participating in a 12-session program that helps shopaholics develop strategies to avoid temptations costs $1,250.

Some people who shop incessantly may do so in order to feel better about themselves, as Dr. Benson explained to Racked.

“Feeling insecure, feelings of having been betrayed, feeling guilt, anxiety, depression, all of those can trigger desire to feel better, and for many people, shopping is a way to try and feel better,” she said to Racked.

But it’s a tough uphill climb: not only is compulsive shopping hard to categorise and often turned into a cute joke, but it also is a tenet of an aspirational society.

“We live in a you-wanna-feel-better-go-buy-something society,” Dr. Kim Dennis, CEO of treatment center Timberline Knolls, said to Racked, wherein “something outside of themselves is going to be their [shoppers] solution.”

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