One time I was talking about debt (well, what else do I have to talk about?) and related issues with my sister (another debt survivor), when she told me about this friend of hers whom she said was addicted to debt.
Now that term—debt addiction— fascinated me. There are so many people in debt now more than ever, could it be that our society has a debt addiction problem?
Getting to the Root of the Debt Addiction Problem
There’s exercise addiction and internet addiction, so why not debt? It’s a bit confounding because I find it hard to believe that people could actually like being in debt. Take exercise addiction for example. People may exercise hard enough to the point of addiction because they see a pleasurable outcome in the form of an adrenaline rush or a fit figure. What could possibly be the pleasurable outcome of debt? Once debt piles up, borrowers only face misery in the form of foreclosures, lawsuits or bankruptcy. Who would take pleasure in bankruptcy?
So I started a rigorous Googling session to find out the deep psychological roots of an all-encompassing potential condition like debt addiction. Quite surprisingly in this instance, pop psychology had nothing to say. Debt addiction is not a formally recognized medical condition. Well, at least not yet. However, certain behaviors that lead to debt—too much spending or compulsive buying—are considered real psychological problems.
Therefore “debt addiction” can be explained as a condition that arises from medically-valid compulsive behavioral problems. After all, when you take out four or five personal loans each month to buy shoes or artisanal cheese, your addiction quite convincingly appears as debt.
Addressing the Underlying Behavioral Issues Relating to Debt
Impulsive buying and compulsive spending are extremely hard behaviors to control. Sufferers may call it “retail therapy,” until shopping addiction turns out to be a serious problem that requires medical intervention.
As with all psychological disorders, shopaholism is complex. Psychologists say that people resort to compulsive spending and buying habits to resolve underlying problems like low self-esteem or persistent unhappiness that a shopping spree might temporarily relieve. The problem is, when a compulsion is nursed once, it has to be nursed over and over again. When nursing a compulsion requires money a person doesn’t have, you only sink deeper and deeper into debt.
We have seen this dangerous pattern among many personal loan debtors. Usually, personal loans are initially acquired to finance an out-of-hand spending habit. Then more loans are taken out to pay off those initial loans. Snowball effect takes over and before the debtor knows what hit them, they are in serious trouble.
And the Conclusion is…
As someone who indulges once a while in shopping, I can empathize with shopaholics. However, I do believe these bad habits should be firmly held back on a short leash. I know, easier said than done. Yes, you will need willpower made out of diamonds to withstand the temptation and the impulses to control your debt addiction problem. The point I want to emphasize is that, while it may seem impossible, it can be done. People have done it. So if you, or a person you know, is “addicted to debt,” know that it doesn’t have to be that way forever. The power is in your hands to change your destiny.