Beat Your Shopping Addiction

Overcome your denial and confront your compulsive shopping.

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