Shopping Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

If you find yourself constantly shopping, even when you don’t need anything, you may be struggling with shopping addiction. Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder, is a behavioral addiction that can have negative consequences on your finances, relationships, and overall well-being.

Compulsive buying involves an intense urge to shop and buy things, even when you don’t have the money or need for it. It can be difficult to control the urge to shop and can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety. Shopping addiction is more than just enjoying shopping or buying things. It’s a serious condition that can affect your life in many ways.

If you think you may have a shopping addiction, it’s important to seek help. There are many resources available to help you overcome this addiction, including therapy, support groups, and self-help techniques. With the right treatment and support, it’s possible to overcome shopping addiction and regain control of your life.

Woman holiday shopping outside with festive shopping bags over her shoulder.
When does an innocent love for shopping become an issue?

Understanding shopping addiction

Shopping addiction is a behavioral addiction that affects a significant number of people around the world. It is a compulsive tendency to shop excessively, even when it is unnecessary. Shopping addiction can lead to financial problems, relationship issues, and other adverse outcomes.

Definition and recognition

Compulsive spending – which is also known as oniomania, shopping addiction, pathological buying, or compulsive buying disorder, is a psychological condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable urges to shop, leading to distress and impairment in various areas of life. Priory Group.

Compulsive buying disorder is characterized by excessive preoccupation with shopping, repetitive purchasing of goods, and spending money on items that are not needed, The consequences are adverse effects on personal, social, and financial well-being.

Young woman in distress, discouraged that she cannot stop her online shopping addiction.
A shopping addiction leads to a multitude of problems in one’s personal life.

Compulsive shopping is a serious condition that is often difficult to recognize. It is often mistaken for normal shopping behavior, and many people who suffer from it do not realize that they have a problem. Some common signs of compulsive shopping include:

  • Spending more money than you can afford
  • Shopping to cope with stress or negative emotions
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed after shopping
  • Hiding purchases from others
  • Accumulating debt or financial problems

It’s important to note that shopping anxiety and shopping addiction are two different things. However, feelings of overwhelm and anxiety can play into a shopping addiction.

Psychological perspectives

There are several psychological perspectives on shopping addiction. Some experts believe that compulsive shopping is a form of addiction, similar to drug or alcohol addiction. They argue that compulsive shopping activates the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine and other feel-good chemicals that reinforce the behavior.

Others believe that shopping addiction is a coping mechanism for underlying psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Compulsive shopping may provide a temporary escape from negative emotions, but it ultimately leads to more problems and negative consequences.

Societal and cultural factors

Societal and cultural factors can also contribute to shopping addiction. In today’s consumer-driven society, people are bombarded with advertisements and messages that encourage them to buy more and more. Social media and online shopping have made it easier than ever to shop compulsively, with one-click purchasing and instant gratification.

Additionally, some people may use shopping as a way to keep up with their peers or to fill a void in their lives. They may feel pressure to have the latest gadgets, clothes, or accessories, or they may use shopping as a way to feel better about themselves.

A woman lying on her back, overjoyed at her recent purchase of shoes.
External factors of social media and advertising is a constant push for the consumer to buy. Internally, a person may shop to fill a void in their life.

Overall, shopping addiction is a complex issue that can have serious consequences for those who suffer from it. By understanding the definition, recognition, psychological perspectives, and societal and cultural factors that contribute to this condition, you can take steps to prevent or overcome compulsive shopping and live a healthier, happier life.

Identifying symptoms and triggers

If you or someone you know is struggling with shopping addiction, it’s important to be able to identify the symptoms and triggers. Understanding these factors can help you seek the appropriate treatment and make positive changes in your life.

Common symptoms

There are several common symptoms of shopping addiction, including:

  • Always thinking about things you plan to purchase
  • Being unable to stop your compulsive shopping
  • Experiencing a rush of euphoria after buying something
  • Feeling regret or guilt about things you have purchased
  • Financial problems or an inability to pay off debts

If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, it may be a sign that you have a shopping addiction. It’s important to seek help and support to address this issue.

Emotional and psychological triggers

Shopping addiction is often linked to emotional and psychological triggers. These triggers can include stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. When you feel overwhelmed or unhappy, you may turn to shopping as a way to cope with these feelings.

The act of shopping can have a therapeutic effect, temporarily distracting or relieving the uncomfortable emotional feelings.

Woman covering her face in shame surrounded by the recent splurge of shopping.
A woman feeling deep shame, feeling weak and out of control. She feels she can’t stop her shopping addiction.

Environmental influences

Environmental factors can also play a role in shopping addiction. For example, if you frequently visit malls or online shopping websites, you may be more likely to engage in impulse buying. Additionally, advertisements and social media can also influence your shopping habits.

It’s important to be aware of these triggers and influences so that you can take steps to avoid them or manage them in a healthy way. By identifying your symptoms and triggers, you can take the first step towards overcoming shopping addiction and living a happier, healthier life.

Demographics and risk factors

Shopping addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, age, or socioeconomic status. However, there are some demographics that may be more susceptible to developing this behavioral addiction.

Gender differences

Studies have shown that women are more likely to develop shopping addiction than men. According to a Norwegian study, 7.3% of women and 2.0% of men suffer from shopping addiction. Similarly, a study of 2,239 Italian young adults found that 9.7% of women showed symptoms of compulsive buying disorder, compared to only 2.8% of men. However, it is important to note that men can still develop shopping addiction, and the prevalence of this disorder may be underreported in men due to societal stigma.

Two women excitedly shopping together.
Women are more likely than men to have a shopping addiction.

Age and shopping addiction

Shopping addiction can affect people of all ages, but it is more common among younger adults. A 2018 study of adolescents in Turkey revealed a 4.1% prevalence rate for shopping addiction. Similarly, a study of 1,503 French adults found that younger participants were more likely to experience compulsive buying behavior. However, older adults can also develop shopping addiction, and may be more susceptible due to factors such as retirement, loneliness, and increased leisure time.

Personality and mental health correlations

Research suggests that there may be a correlation between shopping addiction and certain personality traits and mental health conditions. People with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem may be more likely to develop shopping addiction as a way to cope with negative emotions. Additionally, individuals with personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be more susceptible to developing shopping addiction.

Woman with hands in face in shame; fingers pointing to her in accusation.
Other mental conditions can play a part in the forming of a shopping addiction.

Moreover, shopping addiction has been linked to impulsivity, sensation seeking, and novelty seeking personality traits. People with these traits may be more likely to engage in compulsive buying behavior as a way to seek out new experiences and sensations.

In conclusion, shopping addiction is a complex disorder that can affect anyone, regardless of their demographics. However, certain factors such as gender, age, and personality traits may increase the risk of developing this behavioral addiction. By understanding these risk factors, individuals can take steps to prevent and treat shopping addiction.

Consequences of shopping addiction

Shopping addiction can have serious consequences on various aspects of your life. Here are some of the most common consequences of shopping addiction:

Financial repercussions

One of the most significant consequences of shopping addiction is financial problems. People with shopping addiction often spend more money than they can afford, which can lead to debt, bankruptcy, and other financial problems. According to Verywell Mind, shopping addiction can cause people to spend more money than they have, leading to credit card debt, borrowing money from friends and family, and even selling personal belongings to pay for purchases.

Closeup of woman's feet trying on shoes, surrounded by many more pairs of shoes.
Addiction to clothes and shoe buying are common downfalls of people with a shopping addiction.

Mental and emotional impact

Shopping addiction can also have a significant impact on your mental and emotional well-being. According to PsychGuides.com, people with shopping addiction may experience feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety about their compulsive buying behavior. They may also feel a temporary high or rush of excitement while making purchases, but this feeling quickly fades and is replaced by negative emotions.

Effects on relationships

Shopping addiction can also have negative effects on your relationships with others. According to Everyday Health, people with shopping addiction may become isolated and lonely as they spend more time shopping and less time socializing with friends and family. They may also hide their shopping behavior from loved ones, leading to feelings of mistrust and strained relationships.

In summary, shopping addiction can have serious consequences on your financial situation, mental and emotional well-being, and relationships with others. It’s essential to seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with shopping addiction to avoid these negative outcomes.

Man questioning his wife about the credit card bill and her problem with shopping.
A shopping addiction can ruin a relationship.

Diagnosis and assessment

Diagnostic criteria

To diagnose shopping addiction, mental health professionals use the diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 lists compulsive buying disorder as an impulse control disorder, which means it is classified as a mental health disorder. According to the DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria for compulsive buying disorder include:

  • Recurrent and persistent preoccupation with buying or shopping, as evidenced by frequent thoughts about shopping, planning shopping trips, or fantasizing about shopping.
  • Repetitive purchasing of items that are not needed or are beyond the individual’s means.
  • Significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning as a result of the shopping behavior.
  • The behavior is not better accounted for by a manic episode or hypomanic episode.

Assessment tools

There are several assessment tools that mental health professionals can use to assess the severity of shopping addiction. One such tool is the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale (BSAS) [1]. The BSAS is a self-report questionnaire that assesses seven key criteria related to shopping addiction, including preoccupation with shopping, mood modification, spending more than intended, and shopping-related problems. The BSAS has been found to be a reliable and valid measure of shopping addiction.

Another assessment tool that may be used is the Compulsive Buying Scale (CBS) [2]. The CBS is a self-report questionnaire that assesses the severity of compulsive buying behavior. The CBS has been found to be a reliable and valid measure of compulsive buying behavior.

It is important to note that while these assessment tools can be helpful in diagnosing and assessing shopping addiction, they should not be used as the sole basis for diagnosis. A comprehensive clinical evaluation by a mental health professional is necessary to accurately diagnose shopping addiction.

[1] https://psychology-tools.com/test/bergen-shopping-addiction-scale

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4584995/

Treatment and recovery strategies

If you or someone you know is struggling with shopping addiction, there are various treatment and recovery strategies that can help. If you are trying to stop shopping, getting outside help may be the key to quit your compulsive shopping behavior.

Here are some options to consider:

Professional treatment options

Professional treatment options for shopping addiction include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. It has been shown to be effective in treating shopping addiction [1]. Medications such as antidepressants may also be prescribed to help manage compulsive buying behaviors [2].

In addition, motivational interviewing (MI) was found to be an effective treatments for the disorder. MI helps individuals increase their motivation to change their behavior.

If you are considering professional treatment, it is important to find a qualified mental health professional who has experience working with shopping addiction. You can ask your primary care physician for a referral or search for a therapist online.

Self-help and support groups

Self-help and support groups can also be helpful for individuals struggling with shopping addiction. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences and learn from others who have overcome similar challenges.

One popular self-help group for shopping addiction is Debtors Anonymous [3]. This group is based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and provides a 12-step program for recovery from compulsive spending.

Women in a support group, sharing about their shopping addiction problem.
Women in a support group, sharing about their shopping addiction problem.

Financial management and budgeting

Another important aspect of recovery from shopping addiction is financial management and budgeting. This may involve working with a financial planner or counselor to develop a budget and plan for paying off debt.

It is also important to identify and address any underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to compulsive buying behaviors. This may involve working with a therapist or counselor to develop coping strategies for managing stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions.

Overall, recovery from shopping addiction is possible with the right treatment and support. Whether you choose professional treatment, self-help groups, or a combination of both, the key is to take action and seek help as soon as possible.

Closeup of woman's arm supporting shopping bag and carrying a credit card.
The financial issues that arise out of a shopping addiction can further compound the problems the person with an addiction is trying to resolve.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938854/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4528332/
[3] https://debtorsanonymous.org/

Prevention and education

Shopping addiction can be a serious problem that can lead to financial and personal issues. However, there are ways to prevent and manage this addiction.

Awareness and early intervention

“Shopaholic” can be an innocent term for someone who enjoys shopping. As a friend, you may have shopped with your friend, and thought nothing of their shopping habit. At some point, concern creeps in and you start to worry about them.

One of the best ways to prevent shopping addiction is to be aware of the warning signs and seek help early on. Some common warning signs include spending more money than you can afford, feeling guilty or ashamed after shopping, and using shopping as a way to cope with stress or negative emotions.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these warning signs, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide coping mechanisms and strategies to manage the addiction before it becomes more severe.

A woman having a concerned conversation about her friend's shopping addiction.
A woman having a concerned conversation about her friend’s shopping addiction

Educational programs and resources

Education is another important aspect of preventing and managing shopping addiction. Educational programs and resources can provide information on the signs and symptoms of shopping addiction, as well as coping strategies to manage the addiction.

Some resources that can be helpful include online support groups, self-help books, and therapy sessions. These resources can provide a safe space to talk about the addiction and offer support and guidance to those struggling with shopping addiction.

In addition, educational programs can be helpful for family members and friends of those struggling with shopping addiction. These programs can offer information on how to support their loved ones and provide resources to help them cope with the addiction.

Overall, prevention and education are key in managing and preventing shopping addiction. By being aware of the warning signs and seeking help early on, you can take steps to manage the addiction and improve your overall well-being.

The role of society and media

Shopping addiction is not solely an individual issue, but rather a societal one. Society and media play a significant role in shaping our attitudes towards consumerism and materialism, which can contribute to the development of shopping addiction.

This website (GiftGivingSucks.com) challenges the societal and marketing pressures of consumerism. Although gifting can be a positive experience that expresses love and appreciation for others, the act of shopping must balance with mental health.

Laptop on table with words "Online Advertising."
Easy access to shopping via online and “shopping network” TV shows sets the shopaholic up for repeated slips in addictive shopping behavior.

Consumerism and materialism

Consumerism is the belief that acquiring goods and services is a fundamental aspect of life, while materialism is the belief that material possessions are the key to happiness and success. These values are often promoted by society and media, leading people to believe that they need to constantly acquire more to be happy and fulfilled.

This emphasis on consumerism and materialism can create a sense of inadequacy and drive individuals to seek out shopping as a way to feel better about themselves or to keep up with societal expectations. This can lead to the development of shopping addiction.

Consumer psychology insights

Consumer psychology is the study of why people buy things and what motivates them to make certain purchasing decisions. Understanding consumer psychology can help retailers tailor their marketing strategies to appeal to their target audience.

Consumer psychology tactics are tricking you into buying more than you need.

-GiftGivingSucks.com

Some consumer psychology insights that can influence shopping habits include:

  • Social Proof: People are more likely to buy a product if they see that others have purchased it and are satisfied with it.
  • Scarcity: People are more likely to buy a product if they believe it is scarce or in limited supply.
  • Anchoring: People tend to rely heavily on the first piece of information they receive when making a decision. Retailers can use this by presenting a high-priced item first, making the second item seem like a better deal.

Advertising and marketing influence

Advertising and marketing are powerful tools that can influence our attitudes and behaviors towards shopping. Advertisements often create a sense of desire and urgency to buy a product, leading individuals to make impulsive purchases.

Marketing tactics such as sales, discounts, and limited-time offers can also contribute to the development of shopping addiction. These tactics create a sense of urgency and scarcity, leading individuals to feel like they need to buy something before it’s gone.

Furthermore, the rise of social media has made it easier for companies to target individuals with personalized advertisements, making it even more difficult for individuals to resist the temptation to shop.

In conclusion, society and media play a significant role in shaping our attitudes towards consumerism and materialism, which can contribute to the development of shopping addiction. It is important to be aware of these influences and to take steps to resist them, such as limiting exposure to advertisements and practicing mindful consumption.

Woman shopping in thrift store
If you know a loved one with a shopping addiction, you may be concerned. If it starts to deteriorate their personal life, finances, and relationships, they need to get help. This article covers the psychology behind shopping addiction, and ways you can help.
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee pulls no punches when it comes to challenging the social norms of gift giving. Her mission: putting an end to meaningless gifts and cutting through the fluff. This midwest mom offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!