What is Shopping Addiction?

For some people, developing an addiction for shopping is quite easy.  Learn the symptoms, treatment, and signs to gauge whether it has become a behavior that is out of your control.

It might seem far-fetched that shopping addiction is mental health problem.  Nonetheless, researchers have discovered that it is an issue that can’t be ignored.  Someone with this condition will spend excessive amounts of time, energy and money buying things.  They will not be in control of their actions and will find it very difficult to stop.

Indiana University’s Ruth Engs says that people become obsessed because of the feeling they get from looking for or buying things.  As an individual spends money, their brain’s release dopamine and endorphins. These hormones are important and do many good things for our bodies.  However, too much of a good thing is often very harmful. Endorphins and dopamine make people feel good and tell the us when we receive a reward. So, spending money makes people feel good, which leads to habit-forming behaviors.  Engs points out that about 15% of the whole population experiences these feelings.

What is Shopping Addiction

In some cases, it can be hard to tell if either you or a loved one is a shopaholic.  When people get to shop continuously, they consequently end up spending an excessive amount of money.  However, indulging in a shopping spree from time to time does not mean that you have developed a dependency.

There are a lot of symptoms and signs that are displayed by people with this disorder.  If you are concerned that you or someone you know has a problem, make sure you are familiar with and can recognize these.  As far as treatment, the drugs purported to be able to treat shopaholics have unfortunately not been deemed effective. However, antidepressant medications as well as anti-anxiety medications have seen the successful recovery of several shopaholics.

What Does Shopping Addiction Mean?

About 18 million Americans are suffering from some form of shopping addiction.  This illness can also be called compulsive buying disorder. It is defined by an obsessive need to spend money, even if the person may not be able to afford what they are buying.  Many people consider shopping to be a relaxing activity. It is a major part of everyday life. However, compulsive buying disorder has many signs and symptoms that distinguish it from someone who just likes to shop.  The APA, (American Psychiatric Association), doesn’t consider this condition an official mental illness and many researchers and medical professionals are still debating its validity as a psychiatric disorder.

What Does Shopping Addiction Mean?

Often, someone with this condition be obsessed with different things. These can vary from person to person.  Some may mainly by jewelry; others may be consumed by the need to acquire food. Where some enjoy going to stores, others can get the habit from buying online.  They don’t even have to leave their house to fuel their dependency.

A person who is addicted to buying things experiences a similar rush to a person who uses drugs.  Our brains can link this feeling of excitement to making a purchase. Once this happens, it is very easy to turn into a shopaholic.  They will do everything possible to recreate that sensation again and again. Some researchers believe that women have a higher chance of developing this condition than men.  However, there are others who think that males and females are equally likely to get hooked

What Does Shopping Addiction Mean?

Studies further reveal that the average age of becoming dependent is around 30 years old.  On the other hand, there are also researchers that say the disorder can show up much earlier, between 18 and 20 years old.  Despite the age range, this addiction usually develops after someone has become financially stable or independent; when they either believe they have plenty of money to burn, or their parents no longer have control over what they spend their money on.

How Do I Know If I Have a Shopping Addiction?

It can be relatively easy to tell when someone has it.  However, it is usually always someone close to the affected individual that notices the signs.  Most of the time, a person who has a shopping addiction cannot recognize that they have an issue. They think they are spending an acceptable amount of money on things they need.  People that have this illness will usually act as if they wealthy, but in reality, are often in crippling debt. If this behavior goes unchecked, it may lead to financial crisis. The first step to avoid that fate is to realize there is a problem.  Let’s talk about what you should look for.

Signs may include:

•    Going on sprees every week or even every day

•    Purchasing items when you are stressed

•    Continuing to buy without clearing previous debts

•    Purchasing things creates a feeling of bliss

•    Buying things you do not need

•    Lying or stealing in order to spend money

•    Continuing to shop even though you feel guilty and regretful

•    Having poor money management skills

•    Inability to control or stop habit-forming actions

What Are the Major Causes of Shopping Addiction?

This condition continues to be a subject that many behavioral scholars have not taken seriously, and up to now, there are only a handful of hypotheses explaining it.  You might think to yourself, “Why am I addicted to spending money?” Well, there is an evidence which shows that a genetic predisposition contributes to about 10-15% of dependencies. Along with the environment you grew up in, genetic issues can be the answer.  If you grew up in an environment where parents/siblings liked buying items online, this trend might be one you pick up. You might find yourself copying this behavior and looking at cheap stuff that you don’t necessarily need. So, in this case, exposure in the early stages of your life lead to you developing a dependency of your own.

How Do I Know If I Have a Shopping Addiction?

Because of online shopping, which conveniently brings products right to our doorstep, it is increasingly difficult for most people to resist the urge to click the buy button.  People who are affected by this illness experience a similar thrill to a drug addict. Both experience a positive sensation when they give in to their obsessive behaviors. This sensation is a result of an increased production of dopamine and endorphins.  These hormones cause people to feel euphoric and happy. It is this high which causes someone to develop an addiction for spending money. This will lead to another spree as they chase that high. Although some folks try to portray uncontrolled spending as something only the wealthy can experience, it can take a toll on any person, regardless of age or economic status.

The main reasons people develop a shopping addiction are:

·  An urge to fight the inner void

·  Neglect during childhood, especially emotional neglect

·  Inability to control negative feelings like sadness, despair, anxiety, rage, etc.

·  An urge for regular excitement

·  The need for everything to be perfect

·  Uncontrolled or impetuous behavior

·  A need for approval

·  Feeling like you have to get something

What Do I Need to Know About Shopaholics?

A dependency on buying things usually begins after one gives in to the continuous instinctive need to buy things because he or she believes it will change how others perceive them.  It turns into a problem when this reaction changes from something that is done with little thought, to something that is out of one’s control.

What Do I Need to Know About Shopaholics?

Remember the statement “shop until you drop”?  Well, the glamour will soon fade away when your debts start piling up and affecting your life and the lives of people you care about  Just like when a person is gambling or binge eating, they are no longer able to think clearly and take control of their actions. If this problem is not addressed, it can lead to unnecessary and painful emotional and monetary stress.

It is important that you can recognize the signs of someone who might become a shopaholic, especially if you believe you or someone you know may need help.  Make sure you keep an eye out for them.

•    Experiencing a high when buying things

•    Having and keeping many items that have not been used or opened

•    Frequently buying items you do not need

•    A stressor, like a disagreement, causes you to feel the urge to buy

•    After you make a purchase, you feel guilty

•    You spend more than you can afford to

•    You hide things like receipts, so no one will know you went shopping

What Can I Do If Someone I Know is a Shopaholic?

One of the best ways to stop habit-forming behavior is to avoid any situations that make you feel like you need to go on a shopping spree.  A great example of this is making sure your friend or family member brings a list with them when they go to the store. This can help curb the urge to impulse buy.  They should only have one credit card that they keep for emergencies. Any others should be paid for, canceled or ruined. Moreover, tell the individual that they do not need to carry their wallet with them everywhere.  Without any way to pay, the temptation to buy can never be fulfilled.

What Do I Need to Know About Shopaholics?

Let’s say that you are a parent or adult figure that is helping a teenager who is a shopaholic.  The first thing you should do is help them realize that they have an issue. Let them admit it and say the words out loud.  Undeniably, the teenager will probably deny having a problem, but you must be persistent for positive results. The best thing that you can do as a parent is encourage open communication.  Make sure they know that they can come to you if their urges come knocking. It is also a good idea to steer your teenager towards any other activity, such as music, reading, jogging, or even exercise.  This way, their attention gets diverted away from any financial system. If these solutions just do not seem to be doing enough, you might consider professional assistance. There are many people and programs available to help your loved one get back on track.  It is important to remember that recovery is not going to happen overnight. It is going to be a very long, but very rewarding, process that will require patience.

How Does Shopping Addiction Affect Someone Emotionally?

Many addicts try their best to hide their dependencies from others.  Shopaholics also exhibit this behavior, as they will hide things like bills, receipts or shopping bags.  Some might tell you they did shop, but they will not be truthful about how much money they spent.

Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

Emotional symptoms of shopaholics can include:

•    Purchasing more things than they are financially able to

•    Shopping in response to feelings of sadness, rage or anxiety

•    Buying as a means of feeling less guilty about the last spree

•    Spending so much causes strain in personal relationships

•    Unable to control themselves or stop buying stuff

How Does Shopping Addiction Affect Someone Physically?

Most dependencies cause emotional issues, but there can also be physical symptoms.  For this particular condition, the emotional symptoms may be more prevalent. However, there are some physical symptoms that you should look for.  The following list contains some of these symptoms.

•    Going through a withdrawal after you shop

•    Symptoms like those experienced with an anxiety disorder or depression

•    Feeling bliss or excitement when you finish buying your items

•    Inability to sleep

Why Do Some People Become Addicted to Shopping?

It is not entirely known what initially sparks dependencies like internet buying, gambling, etc.  That being said, we do know why people repeat these actions over and over again. Some folks feel a rush when they spend money, which makes them shop for stuff they don’t need.  After they are finished buying something is faced with can engulf them. This will cause them to want to repeat what made them feel good again and again. As they chase that high, they develop a habit.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted to Shopping?

Other reasons people develop this illness include:

·  An Inability to Part with Material Things:  The uncontrollable urge to keep items, no matter how unneeded they might be, is called hoarding.  Hoarding can be extremely disastrous because those who suffer from it often do not realize they have a problem.  It can often be devastating because it strains relationships and can potentially cause a variety of health problems.  Not only do hoarders find it difficult to part ways with their things, but they also have a constant urge to collect more stuff.  Hoarding and habit-forming spending usually go hand-in-hand.

·  Emotional Disorders:  People who have mood disorders, especially those involving negative emotions, tend to have a higher chance of participating in activities that are habit forming.  Purchasing things releases endorphins and dopamine, two hormones that are related to the positive feelings we get whenever we receive a reward. This makes us feel happy, but too much can be extremely dangerous to people who suffer from mood disorders.  In order to escape feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness, hopelessness, or fear, they might turn to spending money. This can very quickly lead to a dependency.

·  Negative Feelings Towards Oneself:  People who hold themselves in low regard might go shopping in order to feel some relief.  A low self-image makes people set themselves to a higher standard. They do this in order to try and raise their self-esteem, as well as others’ esteem for them.  Shopping can be one of the ways they try to impress others or feel better. They will try to get their hands on whatever the newest thing is. However, they will never be satisfied by what they buy.  As soon as they get it, they will move on to the next thing.

Compulsive Shopping

What does compulsive mean?  Well, it means that an individual, despite knowing there will be negative outcomes, does a certain action over and over again.  These compulsions are fueled by obsessions. Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is when someone has the uncontrollable urge to spend money.  There are many negative consequences of CBD, but the person will not be able to help themselves.

Compulsive Shopping

About 80% of the people suffering from this disorder are female.  Many young girls go shopping with their parents or friends, which allows them to develop a predisposition for the disorder.  Nonetheless, compulsive buying has a higher likelihood of affecting men that have access to digital commerce platforms for purchasing.  With the option to buy online, buying things is easy and quick, and you don’t even have to leave your home. Online shopping is an easy gateway to developing compulsive actions.

What is Compulsive Shopping

Gamblers are obsessed with possibly winning big.  Binge eaters suffer from similar behaviors, but their obsessed with losing weight.  Like these, CBD is a behavior focused disorder. This dependency usually stems from other mental disorders.  People who suffer from mood disorders like depression or anxiety are at risk. People with eating disorders are also likely to develop CBD.  In general, CBD isn’t considered to be an official addiction. Nonetheless, it is hard to deny the similarities to other addictions.

Compulsive Shopping

1. An inclination to buy things:  Compulsive shopping often leads one to buy things without conscious thought.  Many of the things they purchase are never used. This can lead to hoarding as the products they buy pile up over time.

2. Experiencing bliss while buying:  A person who has CBD will feel happy after buying something.  It is usually not possession of the object that causes these feelings, but the act of buying it.

3. Shopping makes you feel better:  CBD could be a way to fill an emotional void.  People who do not have a good self-image or those with mood disorders are often at risk of developing this disease.  Other people go to the store after they have had a fight, or when they are unhappy about something in their lives.

4. Feeling regret after a purchase:  When someone is a compulsive buyer, they will feel regret after a purchase. They often view their behavior as an indulgence, which leads them to feel irresponsible and remorseful.  This results in a vicious cycle where they look at something and feel a positive sensation, then buy it and feel bad. This causes them to want to go again so they can feel better.

5. Using credit cards to avoid the pain of paying:  Obsessive-compulsive shopping will lead to an avoidance of using cash.  People usually feel “paying pain” when they buy something, a feeling that is enhanced with cash.  Psychologically, credit cards tend to separate purchasing something from this “paying pain”. Not having to physically hand the cashier money makes them feel better.  CBD is prevalent only in countries that are highly developed where there’s a credit system as well as consumer culture.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Shopping Addiction

Short term effects might, at times, feel positive. In several cases, after getting done with a shopping trip, you will get excited. Nonetheless, these feelings are often mixed with guilt or anxiety and in several situations that these sensations might compel you to go back into the store.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Shopping Addiction

On the other hand, long-term effects may vary.  People will often have money problems. They might max out their credit cards.  However, in many instances, they will get even more credit cards, or even get a second mortgage to fund their habit.  Their personal relationships can feel strain as well. You might end up distancing yourself from your loved ones or obtaining a divorce.

What Treatment Can You Get For Shopping Addiction?

This condition does not have an easy solution.  There isn’t a medication that will make it go away.  It is a psychological condition that affects one’s behavior.  While anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications can help treat the potential causes of the problem, they usually are not enough on their own.  The best course of action for treatment usually involves therapy and/or counseling. Medical professionals can help find the root cause of the problem, and they can provide advice and treatment that will help an affected individual gain control of their life.

Should you perceive that you or someone you know may have a problem, then the first step is accepting that there is an issue.  For people recovering from a dependency, the hardest part can be admitting that there is something wrong. This should then be followed by undergoing therapy, which can be a long, but very rewarding, journey.

Inpatient Treatment Centers

Inpatient treatment centers have the patient live at the center.  They are put under supervision to help figure out the cause of their problem.  Often, patients will be isolated. Removing stressors and temptation can be a great way to help patients regain a sense of control in their lives.  They do not have to worry about outside factors and can instead focus on treatment. This allows the patient to have a clearer mind.

There are often cases where the patients have other issues.  As mentioned before, dependencies like this are often related to mood disorders or other mental problems.  If this is the case, they can receive additional treatment. This allows them to focus on their issues and overcome them.

Executive Programs

These programs are focused towards individuals who cannot, for whatever reason, be in an inpatient facility.  This is often because of previous familial or professional obligations. For example, if someone is a single parent or owns a small business, it could be difficult for them to take time away to live in a treatment center.  These programs still provide supervision and counseling, but usually this takes the form of seeing the patient for a small amount of time. Other times, the program will provide a more intense inpatient treatment that focuses on allowing the patient to get the care they need, but also gets them home as soon as possible.  


While other mental health issues might seem more critical compared to others, impulse control issues might lead to serious shopping addictions.  It isn’t fun at all to get depressed about being addicted to shopping. Neither is it cool to lose your loved ones because of arguments correlated to your sprees.  Should you or someone you be addicted to shopping, it’s high time you obtained some help. It becomes easy when you identify the triggers for the addiction. If for example, your addictive behavior is triggered by your low self-esteem, then you need to undertake activities that improve it, or enroll in an institute to help you regain your self-esteem altogether. And because spending doesn’t solve any problems correlated to self-esteem (or any other issue), you need to suffocate what feeds that temptation altogether.

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