Signs of a Shopaholic

Shopping is routinely depicted as a fun activity in the media, but as many as one out of 20 Americans is affected by compulsive shopping disorder.

©iStockphoto.com/Janis Litavnieks

We all know the cliché sayings: "I shop therefore I am." "Shop 'til you drop."

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner once mused that her version of heaven included a giant shopping center and no limit on her charge card. Plenty of people probably share that vision, but what if your retail therapy causes you to need real therapy?

Shopaholics, also known as compulsive shoppers or shopping addicts, may actually be suffering from a psychiatric disorder known as compulsive buying disorder.

Compulsive shopping, while long thought to primarily affect women, is now believed to affect both genders about equally. It is blind to income, race and age, although it doesn't usually show its first signs until late adolescence or young adulthood. And it negatively affects more than one out of every 20 Americans [source: Svoboda]. Let's take a look at five of the most common symptoms of a shopping addiction, beginning with the thrill of the hunt.