Beat Your Shopping Addiction

Overcome your denial and confront your compulsive shopping.

When does shopping become too much?

Most of us worry about spending too much or making impulsive purchases we regret from time to time, but compulsive buying is different from impulsive buying. 

Sack clarifies that impulsive shopping, such as purchasing a large flat-screen television that you can’t afford, often happens as an isolated incident. Despite being dissatisfied with the purchase, the buyer will probably watch television afterward. On the other hand, compulsive buying is an uncontrollable urge to buy, even when the purchase is senseless.

You can use a self-assessment to determine whether your shopping habits are problematic. Despite the difficulty in deciding if you spend too much, Sack suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • Check your closet to see if you are buying items you are not using or wearing.
  •  Are you buying more gifts than you reasonably can afford for other people?
  • Do you spend a lot of time shopping? Shopping can seem like an unnecessary waste of time, so ask yourself if you neglect other activities that you should be doing instead, such as working or spending time with friends.
  • To what extent has shopping become a part of your life?

How to know if you’re shopping too much

  • Even when you cannot afford something, you buy it anyway.

It is normal to splurge on something you really need or want now and then, like with many symptoms. However, an average consumer can make impulse purchases without being addicted to shopping.

If you do this so often that you miss important bills or can’t pay for essentials like food and shelter because of your spending, it becomes a problem.

Many compulsive shoppers might become deeply in debt or worse because of their disregard for budgeting. The items they cannot walk away from may even need to be stolen by some shoppers addicted to shopping.

  • Your emotions influence your shopping behavior.

You might not notice shopping as a symptom because of some emotional reaction. For example, it’s normal to reward yourself after obtaining a new job or achieving a significant accomplishment. If, however, you begin shopping because you’re feeling down, you may have a problem.

Shopping is a passion for some people. The fact that you’re happy when you’re shopping does not mean that you’re addicted. However, those who wish to change their moods through retail purchases should take a step back and explore their feelings.


A behavioral addiction, shopping addiction involves compulsively purchasing things to satisfy one’s psychological needs/feelings by avoiding negative feelings, such as anxiety or depression.

Behavioral addictions, such as shopping addiction, can become overbearing and compromise other parts of your life. Shopping addiction (oniomania) is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of addiction because it is compulsive and usually accompanied by no consequences.

There will be times when we want to spend money on things that are not necessary, and that’s okay because we are human.

In contrast, our spending spirals out of control when we keep succumbing to the temptation of impulse shopping. A person who struggles with a shopping addiction will typically spend more time and money than they can afford while shopping, leading to financial difficulties. 

This article will bring to light how to control shopping addiction to avoid getting into trouble. 


Have you ever considered how much money you spend? Daily, most people don’t keep track of how much they spend and how much they buy. This makes it difficult to understand how much they need. By tracking every single penny, you will be able to analyze your spending habits and patterns, you’ll be able to discern where you’re spending most of your money and take steps to save.


Creating a clear path between saving money and enjoying your favorite activities is the goal here. Additionally, adopting this habit will make you focus on something other than your addiction, thereby helping to decrease your desire to buy things.


Any addiction must be treated with a healthier alternative to meet the need. The objective here is not to substitute addiction for something that is more addictive but to replace a negative addiction with something positive, healthy, or at least neutral.


There is no harm or shame in asking for help from friends, families or even get professional help. Sometimes we can deal with our issues alone and seeking help would help us overcome them quickly and easier.

Is Shopping Addiction A Behavior Problem?

Compulsive buying also known as shopping addiction gradually developed into a difficult problem in our modern materialistic society. In recent years, excessive and compulsive shopping has been increasingly placed by mental health experts within the behavioral addiction paradigm.

Compulsive shopping almost always includes the act of buying because window-shopping doesn’t yield the same ecstatic result.

How does shopping addiction develop?

Affecting a growing number of people, obsessive-compulsive behavior of shopping addiction generally cycles through four phases:

Anticipation: Persistent feelings and obsessive thoughts about one particular item or with a single action around shopping.

Preparation: Preparation and planning where to buy, how to go there and which credit cards to use

Shopping: The experience of shopping which generally includes intense feelings of exhilaration Spending: Fulfilling a purchase process after which there may be an overwhelming feeling of regret and guilt leading to feelings of sadness and depression.

What are the characteristics of a shopping behavior problem

People with shopping addiction have some common characteristics. These include:

  • Impulse buying to the point where their shelves are filled with unopened items.
  • Being secretive about their shopping trips
  • Experiencing a rush of euphoria from purchasing the process rather than from owning the item
  • Using shopping as a coping mechanism to numb emotional pain
  • Urge for shopping triggered by stress factors such as low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness and other negative emotions
  • Buying followed by feelings of remorse and guilt and remorse which  in turn could trigger more shopping, making this as a vicious cycle
  • Frequent use of credit card to post-pone the stress of paying the debt to the immediate gratification and the euphoria of purchasing experience

What are the most common purchases?

According to a 2007 study, the most common items purchased by compulsive shoppers are, starting with the most popular:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Household items
  • Music (compact discs)
  • Cosmetics
  • Jewelry

What are the consequences of shopping addiction?

In addition to the economic costs associated with the buying problem, experts believe it to being a true mental health disorder. This is because the abnormal shopping behavior continues or even intensifies in spite of clearly noticeable negative consequences. The consequences may include:

  1. Mental agony and distress including guilt and remorse
  2. Too much time devoted to the buying process
  3. Overspending and going into debt
  4. Job-related problems due to online shopping
  5. Social problems as a result of excess spending, especially marital discord and divorce

What is the solution to the problem?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the effectiveness of shopping addiction treatment. However, experts agree that addressing the underlying problem for which the person is using shopping as a coping mechanism is an important and effective action to control the behavior problem.

How to Identify Shopaholism or Compulsive Buying Disorder

Shopping is an essential activity and part of regular life but it can become a compulsive behavior in some people, turning the issue into even an addiction in a few of them.

Shopping addiction or spending behavior problem has specific terms. It is called Oniomania, shopaholism or Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD). Essentially it is a behavioural disorder characterised by a preoccupation with spending money, and an unquenchable impulse to buy things.

 This excessive buying behavior, an otherwise normal action, leads to adverse consequences. It can often leave people in economic chaos and social issues similar to other widely recognised addictions such as gambling addiction.

More often than not, this problem situation can go undetected by friends or family until the person’s accumulated debt is no longer manageable or causes other problems that can’t be hidden anymore.

It is important to note that people with shopping addiction generally have co-occurring mental health issues. It could be that the abnormal buying behavior is their way of dealing with depression, anxiety or to improve their mood.

However, as with other addictions, the continued excessive purchasing activity can make people feel worse over time due to the increasing debt and other social consequences.

One way to self-identify spending addiction is the feelings of guilt or remorse about buying things but not being able to respond by controlling the urge.

An observational method to identify shopping addiction is to look for behavioral patterns related to purchasing things that end up in financial problems such as:

  • Frequent overdrafts on debit cards
  • Maxing out or exceeding credit card limits
  • Taking several lines of credit or loans
  • Asking friends and family for money without a valid reason.
  • Frequent fights and arguments about money with loved ones

Unfortunately, people with extreme patterns of compulsive shopping behavior who are faced with piling debt could even resort to lying, theft or financial fraud to continue with their addiction.

Due to lack of sufficient research into the shopping addiction, it is not recognized as a mental health disorder. Scientists are still debating whether compulsive and excessive buying should be considered as an impulse-control, obsessive-compulsive, or addictive disorder.

However, many health care professionals agree that the compulsive shopping has all the features of a process addiction associated with mental health issues.

People with a shopping addiction usually shop alone, even if their friends share their love of shopping. For them, it’s a private pleasure, and they may feel embarrassed about their unusual behavior.

If someone is wondering if they have a shopping addiction, one validated tool is called Bergen Shopping Addition Scale. It contains 28 self-assessment statements that best describes your behavior. For each question, the choice of 5 responses ranges from “completely disagree” to “completely agree”. The statements relate to your thoughts, feelings and actions in the last 12 months.

To find out more about this scale refer to

When It’s Time to Seek Help for a Shopping Addiction

Though it is one of the most socially acceptable addictions, those who are addicted to shopping can be just as likely to cause harm to themselves and their loved ones. The danger may not be physical, but the emotional and financial strain caused by uncontrollable excessive spending can splinter relationships and cause irreparable damage to the shopaholic’s financial future.

With the vast amount of marketing and advertising surrounding us daily – in print, on TV and radio, and online – it’s difficult to refrain from shopping; however, most of us can control our spending urges and buy only what is necessary and within our budget – with occasional sprees or impulse purchases. For a shopaholic, the compulsion to spend is only exacerbated by the multitude of marketing messages that bombard them daily. They are unable to curb their desire to spend ever-increasing sums on items they don’t need, and willingly incur credit card debts that they may never be able to repay without first seeking treatment and recovering from their addiction.

When should you seek help for shopping addictions? If you think that you, or a loved one might suffer from a shopping addiction, it’s important that you speak to your doctor, or seek help from another source, such as a financial planner, debt counsellor, or even a therapists or addiction specialist. Some options are even available online, such as American Addiction Centers.

If you’re not ready to reach out to someone who will help you on your journey to recovery, it’s very possible to take the first steps on your own. There are several ways you might begin to take control of your spending: you can remove your credit card information from your favourite online shops or even entirely block online shopping sites; you could destroy your credit cards, or render them temporarily inaccessible – a former co-worker froze her credit cards within a block of ice as a means to curb her impulsive spending as, by the time they’d defrosted enough to use, she had time to rethink her purchase. Winnie Sun, of Sun Group Wealth Partners, suggests leaving purchases in a corner of the room for a whole week and says “If you don’t touch it for a week, that means you can live without it.” As returning the items is time-consuming, frustrating and embarrassing, her clients eventually get to a point where they limit their purchases.

If you feel that your spending is out of control, and is putting your financial welfare, or relationships at risk, please seek help for your shopping addiction.

How Much is Too Much Shopping?

Bargains are everywhere: whether at brick-and-mortar stores or online, at clearance sales, discount outlets, on Black Friday or Cyber Monday – there are no shortage of opportunities to shop. With the Holiday season approaching, stores will see their highest revenues of the year over the next two months as consumers vie for the best deals and biggest savings on the perfect gifts for themselves and their loved ones.

But how much shopping is too much? Where should a shopper draw the line? When is it time to step away from shopping? For many, the compulsion to shop is a true addiction – one that, now more than ever, is far too easy to satisfy. Online retailers offer irresistible draw to shopaholics: in an age when a limitless array of products are available, shopping can be as simple as the click of a mouse, and purchases are conveniently delivered to the doors, shopaholics need not face the censure of society for their actions.

Many shopaholics spend beyond their means, and overdraw from savings and credit cards to fund their habit. They may even hide their purchases – and their overwhelming debt load – from their loved ones. They are unable to resist the lure of spending money in an ever-increasing search for pleasure and the dopamine rush provided by the best bargains. When people become too addicted to the chemical rewards shopping delivers, and shopping becomes a compulsion rather than merely a pleasurable pastime, then they’ve likely developed compulsive buying disorder (also known as oniomania).

If you’re addicted to the thrill of the hunt, feel compelled to buy, and you’re spending far more time and money shopping than you can afford while hiding the extent of your debts, it’s time to draw that line and seriously consider your spending habits. Several online resources and tools are available to help those addicted to shopping – the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale rates the participant’s responses to a series of questions addressing spending. Many online support groups or therapy solutions can help the shopaholic get their spending under control; helplines such as the one offered by American Addiction Centers can help you discuss a possible addiction to shopping and some possibilities for treatment and recovery.

A first step toward controlling your compulsions may be to limit shopping excursions as much as possible – blocking shopping websites at work or home, and only entering a store with a shopping list in hand. Channel your feelings into a more productive pastime: organized sports or exercise, listening to music, reading, or developing a new hobby may leave little time for shopping in your life.

Can Shopping Become a Legitimate Addiction?

There’s nothing like an exciting spending spree to raise your spirits when you’re feeling down. What could be more fun than hitting the mall with friends and hunting for the perfect item or the best bargains? Most people can stop at the occasional outing – but for some, the temptation to shop is irresistible. And shopping, like many other pleasurable activities, can become destructive when taken too far.

Though shopping addiction is not a new condition, being recognized nearly two hundred years ago, and first cited as a psychiatric disorder in the early twentieth century, experts are undecided as to whether many so-called shopaholics suffer from true addiction disorders; the term is, in fact, often used flippantly to refer to anyone who loves to shop. But there’s a vast difference between the recreational shopper and the true addict. Shopping can be legitimately considered an addiction when it has the same effects on the addict as any other substance abuse: if the behaviour is destructive to that person or their loved ones, is causing irreparable harm, or leads to immoral or illegal conduct.

Some shopaholics spend far more time and money than is affordable on their habit. They neglect other responsibilities, and even use shopping as a way to escape feelings of anxiety, depression or anger. They are addicted to the rush of endorphins and dopamine produced by spending money; they, anticipate, plan out and crave the act of shopping in same way a substance abuser anticipates their next hit. Predictably, after the ecstasy comes the emptiness; the shopper crashes, and may feel disappointed in themselves, and guilty for their actions.

Far too often, the purchases go unused, hoarded away, sometimes returned to the store, sometimes hidden away as shameful reminder of their surrender to temptation. The shopper falls further and further into debt, and usually hides this by applying for more credit with the intention of paying off what they owe; inevitably, the new credit is used for more purchases, as the shopper tries to escape their negative feelings and self-critical thoughts.

The true shopaholic feels a compulsion to buy – even when they’ve already spent far more money than is wise. The advertising and marketing that surrounds us all on a daily basis is a minefield for the compulsive shopper, reminding them at every turn that their chosen high is just a quick transaction away. The addict is unable to resist their impulse to spend money, though they may be risking their financial future and their relationships with their loved ones. As such, though there is no physical harm done, the compulsion is comparable to any other true addiction and may require treatment to overcome.

The Shopping Addict in Your Life

We all have a favourite activity to share with our loved ones; for some, it’s shopping. Spending an afternoon at the mall with friends or family can be a lovely outing. But what to do when we fear that those we care for might be addicted to shopping?

While giving in to impulse occasionally is perfectly normal, the compulsion to shop – oniomania – which has negative effects on a person’s life could be a sign that they’ve developed an addiction. While we lead very consumeristic lifestyles, especially in the Holiday season, someone who consistently spends more than they can afford to buy items that they usually don’t need – especially if they’re attempting to hide their excessive purchasing – might have an addiction to shopping.

A shopaholic may be trying to eliminate negative feelings such as anger, depression, or loneliness; they may even be caught in a cycle of spending – addicted to the high induced by the rush of endorphins caused by shopping, then suffering from guilt and shame after a spree, which brings on anxiety and depression, leading to more shopping. A shopaholic usually spends more money than they can afford, preferring credit cards to cash and sometimes delaying bill payments while opening new credit accounts to facilitate more shopping. All of these behaviours can be destructive – but there are ways to help the shopping addicts in our lives.

Like with any addiction, the road to recovery may be a long and difficult one, but your presence – and your patience – are very important to your loved one as they navigate their addiction. The most essential step for curbing compulsive shopping is to avoid the potential for a binge: try convincing the shopaholic to pay off, cancel, and then destroy all but one credit card (which must be used only for emergencies) – a former friend once froze their credit card in a block of ice to prevent impulse buying. Insist that they shop only when absolutely necessary, and then to stick to a list of required items. Try to engage a shopaholic in other, more constructive activities such as exercise, reading, or music.

A shopping addict may frequently suffer from emotional problems, have low self-esteem, or trouble controlling impulsive behaviours. Often, dealing with the underlying issues can help the addict to recover. With time and effort, it’s entirely possible to overcome a shopping addiction – and the positive encouragement of a loved one can go a long way to help a shopaholic.

Am I a Shopaholic?

We live in a consumer-based society. The days of bartering are long past, and we now almost exclusively buy the things we need; most of us also occasionally buy things that we don’t need. And we’re surrounded by advertising that encourages spending – told that buying the latest and greatest will make us happy. But what about people who spend far more than is wise on thing they will likely never use? Though it is definitely one of the most socially acceptable, an addiction to shopping can be as devastating as any other.

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line between buying necessities, having the occasional “retail therapy” outing, and being a shopaholic? Generally, people who are truly addicted to shopping will spend more money than they can afford, and shop when their time would be better spent elsewhere – such as at work, or with friends and family. A shopaholic needs the temporary high brought about by compulsive or impulsive spending, though they’re often unsatisfied with their purchases when they arrive home. They seek to fill a void, or escape emotional difficulties by shopping; though when the temporary high recedes they, like any other addict, are left feeling empty and craving another “hit”.

There are several types of shopaholic, and you may have a shopping addiction if you identify strongly with any of the following descriptions. Compulsive shoppers feel the need to buy when they feel distressed, while trophy shoppers seek the “perfect” item. Bargain seekers will buy items they don’t need if the deal is attractive enough; bulimic shoppers cycle through purchasing and returning items. Collectors need multiple items (all pieces of a set, or an item in every available colour) to fill complete. Some shopaholics love flashy items and want to appear to be a big spender.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if you are, or if a loved one is a shopaholic; an addict relies on the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain caused by indulging in their addiction. Shopaholics Anonymous suggest asking yourself if overspending has created problems in your life; do you feel rushes or anxiety while shopping, like you’ve done something dangerous? Do you feel embarrassed or guilty about your actions, leading to conflict with loved ones? Do you often buy things that you never use?

As with any other addiction, if you think you might be a shopaholic, help is out there – contact Shopaholics Anonymous for resources in your area, reach out to a loved one, or speak to your doctor.

Overcoming a Shopping Addiction

shopping addiction recoveryA shopping addiction is a slippery slope to tumble down. It starts off seeming harmless and before you know it, you are unable to pay your bills and are driving away your significant other. Shopping addiction can become ugly quickly, which is why it is important to overcome your shopping addiction and stop it in its tracks. You may feel like this is impossible because you have tried and failed at it before, but rest assured, you can be in control of your shopping habits by being diligent in your recovery.

The first step is beating your denial. This is the hardest part of confronting an addiction, yet it is essential for every addict to face. Be willing to admit that you have a problem. Recognize that, for whatever reason, shopping gives your brain the dopamine that it craves and somewhere along the line, you began to depend on it for happiness, stress relief and normalcy. Accepting and understanding your own mental condition is an imperative step to recovery.

The next step is taking your recovery seriously. It is easy to scoff at shopping addiction and make light of it because it does not involve needles or narcotics or overdoses. But if you ever hope to beat your shopping addiction, you must take the consequences that it can have on your life seriously. The fact of the matter is, a shopping addiction can leave your life in shambles. Friends, family, coworkers and financial institutions will becomes discouraged with you as you spend all your resources on shopping. In taking your recovery seriously, you must become aware of your triggers and learn how to manage them. You must find healthier ways of spending your time, money and energy in order to balance yourself. You must teach yourself how to reach out for help and be vulnerable. And you must create for yourself a healthy support system if you do not already have one.

A shopping addiction can be a menace to your life, but there is hope of overcoming it. If you have tried and failed on your own, do not be ashamed to reach out for help from mental health professionals or addiction specialists. You will not be judged or laughed at. Shopping addiction is recognized as a legitimate condition and the help of a mental health professional can be exactly what you need to get your life back.