Shopping Addiction


Shopping Addiction

The irresistible desire to shop is known as compulsive buying disorder or oniomania.

What is a shopping addiction?

Shopaholics or shopping addicts goes shopping when they feel down  as a ” pick-me-up.” They go out and buy, to get a high, or get a “rush” just like a drug or alcohol addict. Some people develop shopping addictions because they essentially get addicted to how their brain feels while shopping. As they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive.

Difference between normal shopping binges & compulsive shopping?

Holiday seasons can trigger shopping binges among those who are not compulsive the rest of the year. Many shopping addicts go on binges all year long and may be compulsive about buying certain items, such as shoes, kitchen items or clothing; some will buy anything. Women with this compulsive disorder often have racks of clothes and possessions with the price tags still attached which have never been used. They will go to a shopping mall with the intention of buying one or two items and come home with bags and bags of purchases.

Unfortunately, because shopping is a common and normal behavior, and compulsive shoppers often go out of their way to hide the evidence of their purchases, it’s not always easy to identify the problem. Even one of the common signs of the disorder – frequent arguments over money with a spouse or significant other – is a normal issue.

In some cases shopaholics have an emotional “black out” and do not remember even buying the articles. If their family or friends begin to complain about their purchases, they will often hide the things they buy. They are often in denial about the problem. Because they cannot pay their bills, their credit rating suffers. They have collection agencies attempting to get what is owed, and may have legal, social and relationship problems. Shopaholics may attempt to hide their problem by taking on an extra job to pay for bills. And while some people joke about it, for those sufferers, family members and friends affected, a shopping addiction is no laughing matter.

Definition of compulsive shopping:

Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as inappropriate, excessive, and out of control. Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses.

Compulsive shopping or over-shopping is a process addiction and is similar to other addictive behaviors and has some of the same characteristics as problem drinking (alcoholism), gambling addiction and overeating addictions. And while Shopping Addiction is not a recognized mental health or medical disorder, many mental health professionals believe it should be. The addict buys to relieve anxiety and over time the buying creates a dysfunctional lifestyle and more-and-more of their focus is on shopping and sometimes the cover-up too.

Understanding Process Addictions

Addictions to drugs and addictions to processes are very similar. Both start with chemical changes deep inside the brain.

Brain cells are primed to produce euphoric substances when something wonderful happens, and a separate set of brain cells is designed to respond when that wonderful trigger appears. It’s the work of these cells that’s responsible for the flood of pleasant feelings that takes hold when a person smells a baking pie or hears a baby laugh. The chemical signals are hard at work to ensure that a person is able to recognize that something great is happening.

That same set of signals can stand behind drug abuse, as addictive drugs tend to cause unnatural spikes in the production or uptake of chemical signals of pleasure. But this same process can take hold in people who engage in certain types of activities.

Who is at greater risk to suffer from a process addiction?

A number of factors contribute to the development of behavioral addictions, including personality, substance abuse, and genetics. For example, you may have heard the term “addictive personality” in the context of addiction, treatment, and recovery. While no clinical criteria define an addictive personality, research has shown that people who suffer from substance abuse or behavioral addictions tend to share common personality traits. For instance, people who score high on personality and behavior assessments for impulsivity and sensation-seeking are more likely to suffer from a process addiction.  Similarly, people who score low on harm-avoidance are also more likely to suffer from a behavioral addiction.

Genetics is another important factor that influences whether or not someone will develop a behavioral addiction. If you have a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who suffers from a process addiction, you are at increased risk of suffering from either a behavioral or substance addiction yourself.

Typical signs and symptoms

The most recent version of the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists only one behavioral addiction (gambling disorder), three behavioral compulsions (hoarding disorder, trichotillomania, and excoriation), and one impulse-control disorder (kleptomania). However, all behavioral addictions have common traits, such as

  • Preoccupation with the behavior.
  • Diminished ability to control the behavior.
  • Building up a tolerance to the behavior so the behavior is needed more often or in greater intensity to get the desired gratification.
  • Experiencing withdrawal if the behavior is avoided or resisted.
  • Experiencing adverse psychological consequences, such as depression or anxiety symptoms, when the behavior is avoided or resisted


Hoarding is a persistent difficulty in parting with physical possessions, regardless of its value, the space one has, the need for money, a safe living environment, or other resources. Hoarding is sometimes associated with a shopping addiction, though there is no official diagnosis for shopping addiction in the DSM-5.



Shopping addicts will experience withdrawal symptoms that are similar to the withdrawal symptoms experienced by people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you feel irritable, depressed or out of control after shopping, you may be experiencing withdrawal, and you may need to get help.

Get help

Self help:

Tips for Ending Your Shopping Addiction

If you or someone you know has a shopping addiction, experts suggest the following:

Be nonjudgmental. “People don’t like to disclose they feel out of control, and they feel embarrassed by the amount of debt they have,” Grant says. So if a friend opens up to you about his or her shopping habits, try to respond in a supportive way. Truth be told, the shopaholic often suffers from emotional problems, has low self-esteem, and desires the approval of other people. Positive encouragement is a great way to help the addict follow constructive advice. Let the person realize that self-worth is not related to the items that they buy. Finally, the shopaholic often has a profound sense of materialism, with the assumption that affection and admiration can also be bought. A real social connection with other people helps to reduce this problem.

Give a helping hand. Grant says if a family member is willing to take over the checkbook or finances of a person struggling with compulsive shopping, it can help the loved one regain control. If that’s too much of a burden, a professional money manager can fill that role, he says. convince the shopaholic to enter a store with a shopping list in hand, instead of arriving unprepared. All credit cards must be paid off, cancelled and destroyed, save one that must only be used for emergencies. Furthermore, talk the affected person out of carrying a wallet all the time. After all, without financial means, the temptation to shop cannot be fulfilled.

Discuss gifts in advance. Instead of splurging on pricey presents, families and friends can talk ahead of holidays or birthdays about exchanging skills or favors like house cleanings. “There’s a hangover after the new year when people are in a bad state after having gorged themselves,” Shulman says. “What if we could take a breath early on and say, ‘Let’s make these holidays different.'”

Consider therapy. Grant says cognitive behavioral therapy that encourages people to understand their actions and the longer-term consequences of overspending can help. It can also teach people skills such as using cash instead of credit cards or not going to stores when they feel depressed or stressed.

Look at possible medications. While studies on the effect of medications on compulsive shopping haven’t reached any hard-and-fast conclusions, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are sometimes helpful.

Check out 12-step programs. Most towns and cities have Shoppers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous or Overspenders Anonymous programs that operate much like Alcoholics Anonymous. For some people, it becomes a spiritual path.

Find new activities. Compulsive shoppers often need to replace old habits and even friendships with new, healthier ones. Activities unrelated to shopping can include sports, book clubs or cooking.

Treatment options:

Behavioral addiction treatment and rehabilitation presents a challenge in many cases because, unlike treatment for drugs or alcohol, abstinence can be impossible. For example, a person who is addicted to shopping cannot cut going to the shops completely out of their life. For this reason, some types of behavioral addiction treatment programs focus primarily on rehabilitation and recovery rather than detoxification or abstinence.

Behavioral addiction residential treatment programs address the underlying psychological issues that led you to develop the process addiction. These programs often follow the same structure as substance abuse treatment programs, including 12-step programs, motivational enhancement, and cognitive behavioral therapies that have proven successful at treating behavioral addictions. These treatment programs focus on helping you develop healthier ways of dealing with life and daily stressors.

In addition to residential programs, outpatient behavioral addiction treatment is another option for those struggling with these conditions. Outpatient therapy involves visiting a treatment facility or medical professional on a daily or weekly basis during the beginning stages of treatment. As you begin to feel more control over your behavioral addiction, treatment may become less frequent. Outpatient treatment usually involves a maintenance period in which you visit twice monthly or once per month to receive supportive ongoing care.

During individual or one-on-one counseling, you meet privately with a behavioral health counselor who is trained in behavioral addiction therapy. Sessions focus on identifying the emotional issues and underlying causes of the behavioral addiction, which can include trauma therapy, if applicable. One-on-one counseling offers you a chance to privately voice concerns that may otherwise be uncomfortable to talk about with others in a group setting.

In other words, addiction therapies are aimed at helping people to understand their addictions at a deep level, so they’ll be less likely to dip back into abuse and more likely to build up a life that holds no space for recurrent abuse.

Support group work also plays a role in many addiction treatment programs. It’s here that people begin to understand how others deal with the same problem, and it’s here that they get the support and understanding that can help them to stay sober in the long run.

Recover from Addiction Program

MobieG has developed an online learning campus that offers easy step-by-step online learning.

Recovery from Addiction


Do you have a problem controlling your spending or not?

Do the Shopping Addiction Quiz to find out. The Quiz was developed by the Shulman Center.


Chat to a counselor on MOBIEG LIVE CHAT for help. You may stay anonymous. We are online Sundays: 18h00-20h00; Mondays  – Thursdays: 19h00 – 21h00.


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