Shopping can be an enjoyable activity and a way to treat yourself, but for some it can turn into a compulsive behavior that can lead to serious financial, emotional, and personal consequences. 

What is a Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction, otherwise known as compulsive shopping disorder, is a type of behavioral addiction. It is characterized by an irresistible urge to shop and spend money excessively, often resulting in emotional distress and financial problems.

As with other behavioral addictions, people with a shopping addiction engage in these self-destructive purchasing behaviors to achieve a ‘high’ or temporary satisfaction and are unable to stop despite adverse consequences.

As a result, shopping addiction often has little to do with the purchased items, which the person may or may not have any real need for. Instead, the focus is on the act of the purchase itself.

Of course, not all shopping behaviors can be categorized as shopping addiction. For example, there is a clear difference between the occasional splurge and shopping addiction, as the addiction consists of persistent and repetitive behavior and self-destructive behavior.

Signs of Shopping Addiction

The signs and symptoms of shopping addiction may vary. Common factors, however, include:

  • An uncontrollable urge to shop
  • Excessive spending beyond one’s means
  • Purchasing items with no purpose or utility
  • Feelings of guilt or shame after a shopping spree
  • Neglecting other responsibilities in favor of shopping
  • Negative personal relationships as a result of shopping behavior
  • Financial instability as a result of shopping behavior

In addition to these symptoms, those with a shopping addiction may also suffer with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety, mood disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or more.

Causes of Compulsive Shopping

Different factors contribute to the development of a shopping addiction. These include:

Psychological factors

Compulsive shopping episodes may be brought on as a way to cope with difficult emotions. Psychological distress, anxiety, depression or low self-esteem, can drive people to find comfort in shopping. The temporary euphoria that comes from making a purchase can serve as an escape from negative feelings.

Societal and cultural influences

Advertising, societal pressure to consume, and the cultural emphasis on materialism can contribute to compulsive shopping habits. The constant barrage of messages suggesting that happiness can be bought makes it challenging for vulnerable individuals to resist the urge to shop.

Biological contributors

Research suggests that there may be biological factors at play, such as abnormalities in the reward centers of the brain. Similar to substance addictions, shopping can release dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, reinforcing the behavior.

Types of Shopping Addiction

There are different types of shopping addiction. Some of the most common include:

Impulse buying

Impulse buying typically involves spur-of-the-moment shopping decisions that the shopper may grow to regret later on. Typically, this type of shopping addiction is caused by a fear of missing out or never seeing that product again and is usually not planned.

Bargain hunting

Bargain hunters are addicted to the thrill of finding a good deal. They’ll often purchase an item regardless of their need of it simply because it is on sale. The person may accumulate large amounts of such items, ultimately spending large amounts of money.

The collector

Collectors may become addicted to buying specific types of items and experience a compulsion to complete sets or collections, irrespective of the financial cost or practicality of the collected item. In this case, the ‘rush’ isn’t just associated with the purchase itself, but with adding another item to the collection or finishing it.

Binge shopping

Similar to binge eating, binge shoppers go on extensive shopping sprees, often impulsive and sometimes in response to emotional triggers.

Bulimic shopping

Vice versa, bulimic shopping refers to when someone makes a purchase and later on regrets and returns the item. Bulimic shopping may also occur impulsively and in response to emotional triggers.

How to Stop a Shopping Addiction

When it comes to finding shopping addiction help, there are several strategies that can be employed to regain control.

1. Recognize the problem

The first step to solving any addiction is acknowledging that there is a problem. Individuals who suspect they might have a compulsive shopping disorder should reflect on their shopping habits and the impact it has on their lives.

2. Seek professional help

Therapy can be a valuable tool in addressing the emotional and psychological aspects of shopping addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one approach that helps individuals understand and change their thought patterns and behaviors.

3. Set financial limits

Creating a budget and sticking to it can help control spending. It’s important to keep track of all expenses and avoid using credit cards or taking out loans for shopping.

4. Find alternative activities

Engaging in hobbies, exercise or social activities can provide a sense of fulfillment and joy that shopping cannot. Finding healthy alternatives can reduce the reliance on shopping for emotional satisfaction.

5. Build a support network

Having friends or family members who understand the struggle can make a significant difference. Support groups, both in-person and online, can also provide a community of individuals facing similar challenges.

Help Is Available at Sierra Vista Hospital

Shopping addiction is a complex behavioral health condition that can have serious consequences on a person’s life and financial well-being. Although not officially recognized in the DSM-5, symptoms of shopping addiction are very real to those experiencing them.

Sierra Vista Hospital, located in Sacramento, California, is here for your mental and behavioral health needs. We provide inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services to adults and adolescents seeking improved mental well-being. Our individualized treatment plans aim to meet each person’s needs and challenges.

Learn more about how we can help by giving us a call at 916-273-4300 or get in contact with us by using this form.