Shopping is often regarded as a perfectly reasonable past time but there is a big difference between a harmless trip to the mall with friends and chronic overspending that compromises your financial security.

Many researchers are now confirming that compulsive shopping is a mental disorder rather than a silly trait of the female gender.

Compulsive shopping starts out much like any other addictions, at first it’s an innocuous social event then it escalates to damaging proportions. It becomes a problem when a pleasure turns into an uncontrollable urge. Severely affected individuals, like drug addicts and alcoholics, find it difficult to think about anything else.

Many compulsive shoppers feel a distinct rush of adrenalin when they hand over their cash (or more likely their credit card). This rush keeps them going back for more.

How can you tell if your behaviour is abnormal?
1. If you walk into a store and buy items that you don’t need or can afford but you feel you can’t stop yourself, question your motives.
2. If you get into debt to feed your shopping habit.
3. If you write out cheques knowing there are no funds in the account.
4. If you have a belief that somehow things will sort themselves out, but you have no plan in place.
5. If you are asking your friends and family to lend you money to support your shopping.
6. If you are losing friendships over borrowing money.
7. If the high that you achieve purchasing the item dissipates and you feel depressed as soon as you get home, there are definitely some emotional issues that need to be dealt with.
8. If you hide your new purchases from your partner.

How to break the habit
The simplest solution is to avoid malls like the plague and condition yourself to do other activities. The gym for example, would be a much better place to be addicted to.

Keep a detailed record of what you spend each day and a running total. It will give you a daily picture or what you are spending and keep you focussed on a budget.

Before you make a purchase, ask yourself these questions: What is my money situation like for the month? Do I really need the item? If the item weren’t on sale would I still buy it? Will this purchase adversely affect my family?

They say it takes 28 days to change an attitude or form a new habit. Start now and try and stay away from the malls for a month.

If you believe you are really addicted it may be worth your while going to see a therapist they could save you thousands in the long term.

See the addiction for what it is. Make a list of all the negative elements of the overspending and what it is costing you so you get a full picture of its harmful effects.

Think positively. Instead of saying "I don’t want to overspend" replace the thought with "I want to save" and identify a goal to work towards.

Do you think a shopping addiction is as harmful as being addicted to alcohol or drugs?