Weight Loss Surgery Triggers Shopping Addiction

Wellness with a Wow

Weight Loss Surgery Triggers Shopping Addiction

According to the National Association for Weight Loss Surgery about 75% of  people who undergo bariatric surgery, which involve procedures that either limit the amount of food that can be consumed or reduce food absorption, are women.

 “Women seem to be more aware of the problems obesity brings to health, says Santiago Horgan, MD, chief of the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery at UC San Diego Health System. “They are much more willing to look at surgical weight loss earlier in life, whereas men tend to wait until they have more co-morbidities (adverse health conditions).”

We discussed this topic on an episode of Diabetes Late Nite featuring music by Etta James. Etta James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds at the urging of her friend, Roseanne Barr, who also underwent the surgery.

The good news is that it’s not as difficult to find a doctor to perform this anymore and most insurance will cover the procedure by a rationalization that obesity will kill so it is better to pay now rather than pay more later. 

The bad news is that one of the consequences related to weight surgery is ‘addiction transfer’ is barely mentioned.

Addiction Transfer is when a person who has experienced weight loss surgery replaces their food addiction with new addiction ranging from gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol, to shopping. The reason this may occur in a small percentage of people is because the initial addiction was never dealt with, in this case it would be food, and so there is still an addiction component in the brain that was not resolved so a new addiction blossoms, replacing the old one. 

Recent research also suggests that the biochemical causes of compulsive eating are extremely similar to those underlying other self-destructive addictions, such as alcohol or cocaine addiction. Alcohol use in particular is a concern for bariatric patients because some versions of the surgery can change the way patients metabolize alcohol, making it far more powerful.

I’m focusing on the cross addiction of shopping in my new Mister Divabetic Mystery podcast. The main character’s weight loss surgery triggers a compulsive shopping addiction that quickly spirals out of control leading to deadly consequences.

I’d like to not that there’s a big difference between a shopping spree vs. real shopping addiction. One key characteristic of any addiction is that it affects other parts of your life in a negative way. For example, you may be thinking, “But, I just like to shop” but, if your over-shopping affects your ability to pay basic bills like rent or electricity, or your shopping takes you away from work or family obligations, that’s negative, and these are signs of an addiction.

According to the ‘Love To Know’ website if a person has a shopping addiction, some signs may be:

  • Overspending: The individual spending over their budget, or what they can actually afford. Maxing out credit cards is typical among shopping addicts.
  • Impulse buys: QVC addicts are likely affected by impulse buys often. An impulse buy simply put, means that little thought goes into the decision to purchase.
  • Shopping a lot: A lot of shopping sprees is defined by someone who shops often; such as a shopping spree monthly, bi-monthly, or more.
  • Shopping for entertainment purposes.
  • Hiding the problem: Truly addicted shoppers tend to hide their habits. They may have talked about it in the beginning, such as bragging about their purchase scores, but once shopping gets out of hand they stay quiet. Along with hiding their habits they may also hide money; or carry secret credit card accounts that no one, not even their significant other, knows about.

I can easily see why people who’ve had weight loss surgery could transfer their addiction to shopping. After all who isn’t thrilled to be able to shop for new, smaller sized outfits? It is one of the greatest joys in life! 

Additionally, the enticing lure of shopping websites and Home Shopping channels  make it easy  to cultivate a shopping addiction. People to are urged to  ‘buy, buy, buy’   practically everything under the sun at any time of day or night.  And  shopping online or at home means they can keep their outrageous spending habits a secret.

Actually ‘addiction’ is part of QVC’s business model, as the overwhelming majority of sales come from repeat customers reports the AV Club website. There’s even a a Facebook group specifically dedicated to QVC Addicts! It is important to point out that not all QVC devotees are compulsive shoppers. But, as a psychologist observes, the most vocal members of the Facebook group do exhibit the signs of addiction. For their part, the members of QVC Addicts do not want to change their ways.

Research shows that some people develop a addiction transfer right out of the gate when they are prescribed opiate based pain killers post-surgery. For others, it is taking a bit longer.

Without help the addictive behaviors will continue to spill over onto each other creating a domino effect. Dual diagnosis treatment is readily available for people to make the addiction pattern stop, once and for all but the stigma associated with therapy is a barrier to seeking help.

If you or someone you care about might have a problem with compulsive shopping and spending, the following tips can help.
  1. Understand the phenomenon. …
  2. Know thyself. …
  3. Reflect on how you feel when you shop. …
  4. Think about the time involved. …
  5. Take control of the situation. …
  6. Start writing things down.
  7.  Know when to get help.   If you feel your spending is so out of control that you can’t wrestle with the problem alone, seek out counseling or therapy or try attending a Debtors Anonymous meeting. To find meeting times and locations in your area, visit the Debtors Anonymous Web site and click on “Find a DA Meeting.” If you or a loved one needs an even more serious intervention, the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at Proctor Hospital offers an in-patient treatment program for compulsive spenders and debtors. You also could find assistance through the Stopping Overshopping Program.

It’s also interesting to point out that substance-abuse centers, including the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., say they are seeing more bariatric-surgery patients checking in for help with new addictions.

LISTEN NOW: Mister Divabetic Mystery: The Phantom of the Okra. Tune in to find out if orange be the ‘new black’ for Mr. Divabetic?  Enjoy diabetes self-care advice and nutrition information in between moments of suspense, wild-goose chases, and entertaining banter. Guests include: Best-Selling Author Tonya Kappes, Asha Brown (founder of the We Are Diabetes organization), Central Farm Markets Co-Founder Debra Moser, Poet Lorraine Brooks, Patricia Addie-Gentle RN, CDE, Author Peter Arpesella, Susan Weiner MS, RD, CDE, CDN, Leisa Chester Weir, Terri Seidman and Mama Rose Marie.

This podcast features song selections from “The Phantom Of The Opera” soundtrack courtesy of SONY Music.

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