Shopping Addiction

Elizabeth Murray

Shopping Spree or Addiction?

Shopping is one of my favorite pastimes- who doesn't love a little retail therapy? This so-called form of "therapy" can quickly turn into a habit, which can quickly turn into an addiction. A shopping addiction is described as a pattern of chronic, repetitive purchasing that becomes difficult to stop and can ultimately lead to financial disaster. Ideas of shopping have been around for ages, trade is the oldest formed of shopping our civilization knows.


How can something like shopping become addictive? It's easy. The availability of credit cards and checks make accumulating possessions in our material obsessed society that much more doable. Many decide to worry about financial responsibilities after the purchase.

Ruth Engs, EdD, a professor of applied health science at Indiana University, states that "There are certainly a lot of commonalities among shopoholics and other addicts. For instance while alcoholics will hide their bottles, shopoholics will hide their purchases."

Often times, the occasional shopping spree with friends can turn into the weekly, daily, hourly spree. Quickly, this can turn ruin family finances and relationships.

The Science of Shopoholism

Individuals can receive somewhat of a high from addictive behaviors, such as shopping. Endorphins and dopamine, naturally found in the receptor sites in the brain, get switched on when doing something addictive as shopping. These chemicals make our body feel good, and so the behavior (shopping) is reinforced, making one more likely to do it more frequently. When someone participates in their urge, whether it be a drug or behavior, the activity releases dopamine from the brain and causes one to feel pleasure. To make matters worse, swiping a credit or debit card is so easy.
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How to tell when it becomes a problem?

-Spending over budget

-Compulsive buying

-Hiding the problem (i.e hiding the evidence/bills)

-Feeling "lost" without credit cards

-Describing a rush or euphoria when spending

-Lying about the amount of money spent

-Shifting accounts or bills to accommodate spending habits

*Often, shopping addictions gravely affect the lives of those involved. Lying, manipulating and obsessive behaviors can ruin one's view of themselves and their relationships with others.

According to Zehr, if one identifies with four or more of any of these behaviors, there may be a problem

Getting help

The first step in working towards recovery is admitting there is a problem. There is a debtors anonymous program which works to help those with a spending problem. Although there are no standard treatments for a shopping addiction like there are for drug and alcohol, there are ways to get better. Medications, often times antidepressants, can help treat some cases. Therapy also offers a safe place to talk problems out.
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According to a recent study done by Dr. April Benson revealed shocking numbers regarding shopping. The following stats are taken directly from an article by Charles Tran, Survey: Shopping Addiction Statistics

  • 31.7 percent of respondents said they “almost always” or “frequently” purchase things just because they’re on sale.

  • 18.1 percent said they often purchase items that they don’t need or didn’t plan to buy when they set out to shop.

  • Nearly 11 percent of those polled said they frequently shop to improve their mood.

  • 47.4 percent said they experience a rush of excitement when they go shopping.

  • 24.4 percent admitted they have items in their closets that are still in shopping bags or have price tags.

  • 18.5 percent said they have frequent arguments over money.

  • 19.1 percent said their main reason for using credit cards is to pay for items when they don’t have enough money.