Shopping Addiction Guides & Articles

Lisa A. Koosis
Last updated:
Brindusa Vanta, MD, DHMHS
Medical Editor

What Is a Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction is a behavioral condition characterized by the persistent, impulsive, and/or uncontrollable urge to buy unnecessary products without regard to consequences. It may also be referred to as compulsive buying disorder (CBD) or oniomania. Individuals struggling with shopping addiction are often referred to as shopaholics.

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Shopping Addiction Treatment Program Options
in Shopping

Shopping addiction sometimes isn’t treated like a serious behavioral disorder. Unless it coexists in a patient with substance abuse, clinical depression or other obvious behavior or mood issues, some people have trouble addressing shopping addiction as on a par with more “legitimate” substance abuse issue. What Causes Shopping Addiction? A casual disregard toward shopping addiction […]

How to Find Help Treating a Shopaholic
in Shopping

Giving in to the occasional impulse buy is normal. After all, the majority of people enjoy shopping. The problem occurs when you or someone you know has succumbed to obsessive shopping. When it happens to you, a negative change in your spending habits is noticeable. For instance, you are likely tempted to dash off to […]

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Shopping Addiction Symptoms, Causes and Effects
in Shopping

A shopping addict is someone who shops compulsively and who may feel like they have no control over their behavior. Are There Different Types of Shopping or Spending Addictions? According to Shopaholics Anonymous, there are several different types of shopaholics, and they are as follows: Compulsive shopaholics who shop when they are feeling emotional distress […]

More about Shopaholics

Rather than buying items to fulfill practical needs, compulsive shoppers typically make purchases to satisfy emotional needs, such as: 1

  • Improving mood
  • Enhancing social status
  • Relieving feelings of isolation
  • Coping with stress and/or anxiety
  • Finding approval from friends, family, or colleagues

Shopping addiction may be associated with certain psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and depression. It often occurs alongside other conditions involving impulse control, such as eating, gambling, and substance abuse disorders. 2

Whether an individual struggles with an in-person or online shopping addiction, the compulsive buying behaviors typically have four distinct phases: 3

  • Anticipation: Typically, compulsive buying behaviors start when the individual begins to think about an item—or overall shopping—often to the point of preoccupation.
  • Preparation: Compulsive shoppers often prepare for shopping trips by researching products, retailers, or financing options.
  • Shopping: This is when the individual actively shops for a product or products. Often, shopping is accompanied by intensely pleasurable feelings, such as excitement or euphoria.
  • Spending: During this phase, the individual completes the actual purchase of the product or products.

In the aftermath of compulsive buying, individuals may experience feelings of guilt, shame, or regret. Shopping addiction often has a negative impact on the shopper’s finances and relationships. There can be legal consequences, too, if the addiction evolves to include crimes like theft or fraud.

Types of Shopping Addictions

Shopping addictions or CBDs may fall into one or more general categories, including: 4

  • Collecting: Collectors typically purchase multiple varieties of the same item. For example, a compulsive shopper may collect the same type of scarf in every color, pattern, and fabric.
  • Hoarding: Hoarders make excessive purchases and may fill their homes with worthless or potentially hazardous items. The quantity of items they own may hinder their ability to execute daily activities, such as bathing or cooking.
  • Trophy hunting: Trophy hunters typically take their time finding the perfect item. Although they may not purchase large quantities of items, they often buy high-end items with exorbitant price tags.
  • Image shopping: Image shoppers typically buy flashy or expensive items to impress other people.
  • Bargain hunting: Bargain hunters typically purchase on-sale or discounted items, regardless of need.
  • Bulimic shopping: Bulimic shoppers may regularly purchase items impulsively and then return them due to feelings of guilt or regret.
  • Codependent shopping: Codependent shoppers typically purchase gifts for loved ones, even if there’s no occasion to celebrate. They use shopping as a way to seek approval and love.
  • Compulsive shoplifting: Although shoplifters steal rather than purchase, compulsive shoplifting is considered a shopping addiction. These “shoppers” may steal items to get an adrenaline rush.

Online shopping addiction may also fall into many of these categories.

Am I a Shopaholic? Signs of Shopping Addiction

It can be difficult to know when a love of shopping tips becomes an addiction. Signs to watch for include: 5

  • Persistent or obsessive thought patterns: Individuals with a shopping addiction constantly think about coveted items or shopping.
  • Excessive preparation: Compulsive buyers may spend an excessive amount of time planning and researching a purchase or shopping trip.
  • Heightened feelings when shopping: Someone with a shopping addiction may experience feelings of pleasure, excitement, or relief that are disproportionate to the purchase.
  • Shopping as a means of coping: Compulsive shoppers may purchase items to cope with stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. They may also shop in response to a distressing event or life crisis.
  • Financial disregard: Repetitive, excessive shopping may actually be a sign of shopping addiction if an individual buys items they can’t afford without regard to the financial consequences.
  • Buyers’ remorse: Many shoppers occasionally have buyers’ remorse, in which they regret extravagant or major purchases. However, individuals with a shopping addiction may regularly experience guilt or regret after a shopping spree.

How to Stop Compulsive Shopping

Shopping too much can have a negative impact on a person’s daily life, but currently, there’s no standard treatment for CBD. However, shopaholics may be able to manage their shopping habits by following a few basic guidelines: 6

  • Track spending habits to look for and understand patterns
  • Identify triggers and consider ways to manage them
  • Set a budget with weekly or monthly spending limits
  • Leave credit cards at home when shopping
  • Unsubscribe from promotional emails and newsletters
  • Delete retail apps from phones and tablets
  • Avoid unnecessary shopping trips, especially right after payday or before paying bills
  • Transfer extra money to savings accounts
  • Reroute shopping urges into purchasing essentials instead of luxury items
  • Visit a support site, such as Debtors Anonymous

Individuals with severe shopping addictions may find it helpful to seek help from a mental health professional. These professionals can diagnose and treat any underlying psychiatric conditions and help the patient learn healthy coping mechanisms. Shopaholics may also benefit from support groups, prescription medications, or cognitive behavioral therapy (commonly referred to as talk therapy).

How to Cope With a Shopping Addiction

Compulsive buyers may use retail therapy to manage daily stress, and trying to overcome that addiction can be difficult. However, there are effective ways to cope. Coping often begins by channeling negative emotions and impulses into healthier activities, such as: 7

  • Exercising
  • Journaling
  • Playing sports
  • Volunteering at a local charity
  • Phoning friends
  • Reciting positive affirmations
  • Seeking support from loved ones

How to Help Someone With a Shopping Addiction

Compulsive buying disorders can place undue strain on relationships, and it’s normal to feel frustrated, angry, or sad if a loved one is struggling with this type of addiction. 8 However, it’s important to support individuals who are trying to overcome compulsive shopping.

When trying to help a shopaholic, there are a few things you can do. To discuss a potential shopping addiction with a loved one, choose a safe, comfortable location, and calmly invite them to the conversation. Be gentle and compassionate when expressing concerns, and offer support and assistance during recovery. Individuals who are struggling with the consequences of a loved one’s shopping addiction may also benefit from professional counseling.