Magazine article Addiction Professional

Social Worker Backs Concept of Shopping Addiction

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Social Worker Backs Concept of Shopping Addiction

Article excerpt

At a time when some are questioning whether the definition of addiction has become too broad, the prospect that compulsive shopping could soon become an officially classified disorder would appear unlikely. But a licensed social worker in New York City who has conducted numerous groups with individuals who cannot control their spending has no qualms about using the addiction construct to describe what she sees.

"Absolutely I would call it an addiction," says Laura MacLeod. "All the things are there," from prominent triggers, such as resentment and boredom, to the patterns of repeated actions despite negative consequences, such as financial hardship and impaired relations with loved ones.

MacLeod believes in the healing power of groups in general and says she is seeing how people affected by compulsive shopping benefit when they come to realize that others have experienced similar problems. A common element among those who join these groups, she says, is that up to that point, they generally have told no one else about their problem. MacLeod says some of that stems from fear that people won't take the issue seriously, and might instead say something like, "What do you mean you can't go into a store and not spend $5,000?"


In her observation of this issue, MacLeod says she has seen it more frequently in women than in men, although she also describes recently working with a male client in Ireland through video technology. She says the participants in her groups tend to be middle-aged, and have engaged in problematic shopping behavior for some time. Today's home and online shopping options, along with easy access to credit and constant reminders of sales and deals everywhere, certainly enhance the opportunities for these behaviors.

MacLeod says that when there are co-occurring issues present, compulsive shopping will most likely intersect with an eating disorder. Of course, since shopping addiction is not recognized in the DSM, this problem occurring in isolation cannot be treated under insurance billing.

She sees variation in levels of severity among the individuals with whom she has worked. One woman simply feared that the time she spent shopping online was taking too much energy away from her work. Others talk of the anxiety and guilt around having to hide purchases from their loved ones. Another person might describe the "high" around having just landed the perfect designer handbag, only to realize on the drive home that maybe it's not so perfect and the ideal purchase is still out there somewhere. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.