Addiction to Shopping

By: Christina Santini

Compulsive Shopping - The Basics

The addiction to shopping is not taken as seriously as addictions to substances like drugs or alcohol, but that doesn't mean it isn't a serious addiction. Shopping addictions are commonly thought of for those who are rich and are celebrities, especially females. For the past 100 years, compulsive shopping has been recognized and researched, but not to the extent of substance addiction. Those addicted have been commonly diagnosed under impulse control disorder. However, now it is no longer thought of fitting solely into one category like behavioral addiction or impulse control disorder. It is often paired with other disorders or illnesses like depression.
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Why a shopping addiction? The Start.

Shopping is a necessity in order to have the essentials to continue living even one of the poorest lifestyles. You need to shop for clothes and food. Then if you have money left over, you can continue to go shopping for more leisurely items. This is where people can become addicted to the act of shopping. They may be hiding other emotional problems by feeling like they do not have enough material possessions and continue to buy more. It may be difficult to stop this addiction once started since shopping is a daily necessity. They can not completely avoid stores like an alcoholic may be able to avoid a bar. The difference between compulsive buying and other addictions is that compulsive buying is condoned by society.

A Shopping High

Endorphins and dopamine begin to flow throughout the brain and body during the act of shopping. These hormones cause the person to feel good and create a sense of a high. These feelings cause the person to want to continue shopping in order to feel that high again and again. It turns into a never ending cycle since the only way they can reach that feeling again is to buy more items.
A high from buying a lot of new things will die down later once they are done shopping. It is not enough to just have these new items. They need to feel the high of buying them, so they continue to go out and buy more things that fail to satisfy their needs. These needs or the void their shopping high fills is often caused by deeper emotional problems, or illnesses.
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  1. Family or friends who notice that the shopping addiction has become extreme may want to form an intervention to help that person get professional help if they do not realize their problem on their own.
  2. Debtors Anonymous is a 12 step program to help the person addicted understand what is happening and how to stop it.
  3. The addiction can be treated with behavioral therapy and individual counseling. This is affective because they can learn to identify triggers and develop impulse control.
  4. To better address the problem, they may need to understand if there are deeper emotional problems that the shopping addiction is stemming from. Things such as depression can lead to a shopping addiction.
  5. In order to prevent shopping, the person can have a self proposed ban on shopping. Other times, those more seriously addicted may need to have someone else in control of their finances.

Impact of being Addicted

Growing Debt

  • Their need for shopping can cause them to spend a majority of their money without maintaining a budget.
  • They will use credit cards instead of cash. This will lead to them feeling as if they can buy anything where in reality they cannot afford what they buy. Even if they realize this, they will continue to feel the desire to shop.

Impaired Relationships

  • Spending more time focusing on their need for shopping and away from home can cause a strain on the relationship.
  • If their spending leads to debt, a complication of budgeting, and paying for necessities, their relationship with their significant other may struggle.

Life Revolving Around Money

  • They may constantly be thinking about money and how their most recent shopping spree affected their budget.
  • They may be juggling accounts and bills in order to accommodate their spending and other necessities.


Almost 6% of Americans report having a shopping addiction problem according to a Psychiatrist Times survey conducted in 2006. These percentages were about equal for men and women, being 5.5% and 6%. This shows that men are just as susceptible as women to become addicted to shopping.

These following statistics were from a poll of a large group of randomly selected people willing to tell uncover their shopping habits. There were surprisingly high percentages revealed for many of the signs and symptoms of compulsive shopping for this sample group.

Warning Signs of a Shopping Addiction:

  • 36.7% experienced feelings of guilt or shame after they go shopping
  • 20.5% hid purchases from their families
  • 26.7% check their available credit at least once a week
  • 47.4% said they experience a rush of excitement when they go shopping
  • 24.4% admitted they have items in their closets that are still in shopping bags or have price tag

Shopping Habits:

  • 31.7% of respondents said they frequently purchase things just because they’re on sale
  • 18.1% said they often purchase items that they don’t need or didn’t plan to buy when they set out to shop
  • Almost 11% said they frequently shop to improve their mood
  • 18.5% said they have frequent arguments over money with their significant other or family member due to shopping
  • 19.1 percent said their main reason for using credit cards is to pay for items when they don’t have enough money
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Most people who are classified as compulsive buyers or have an addiction seem to be motivated by internal drivers. Similar to other addictions, shopping fills a void and it acts as if it is solves our personal problems. Debtors Anonymous has helped discover this and also that people facing a shopping addiction tend to have low self-esteem, a tendency towards fantasizing, and to be vulnerable to depression and high anxiety.


Bryner, Jeanna. "The Truth About Shopaholics." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 2 Mar. 2008. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Feature, Heather. "Shopping Spree, or Addiction?" WebMD. WebMD. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Hartney, PhD. "Compulsive Shopping - Is Compulsive Shopping Really an Addiction." About Health. 19 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2015. .

"Shopping Addiction." Addictions. 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Tracy, Natasha. "Addiction Facts and Statistics - HealthyPlace." HealthyPlace. 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Tran, Charles. "Survey: Shopping Addiction Statistics." CreditDonkey. 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.