Treatment for Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction is a condition in which an individual suffers from a compulsion to buy things. According to the American Psychiatric Association, compulsive shopping and spending is described as a pattern of chronic, repetitive purchasing that becomes difficult to stop and ultimately results in harmful consequences. Shopping addiction does not currently have a separate diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it is considered an impulse control disorder and has features similar to other addictive disorders without involving the use of an intoxicating drug.

Shopping Addiction Statistics

About 6% of women and 5.5% of men are compulsive buyers, according to a 2006 study from Stanford University in the American Journal of Psychiatry. A survey done by found that:

  • 31.7 percent of respondents said they “almost always” or “frequently” purchase things just because they’re on sale.
  • 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.
  • 18.5 percent said they have frequent arguments over money.

While many people shop beyond their means and buy things that they don’t need, a compulsive buyer will lose control over their shopping, and this addiction will greatly impact the rest of their life. They will suffer not only financial consequences from shopping, but also relationship problems, emotional issues, and their commitments and responsibilities may also suffer. Shopping addiction can easily lead to hoarding, as the person begins to acquire more things than they physically have room for. Other compulsive shoppers suffer from addictions like drug addiction and alcoholism, or from other mental health conditions.

Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

Compulsive shoppers often feel the need to buy things because it helps them feel in control.

Individuals that suffer from compulsive shopping often use their shopping to meet a need. They may shop to reduce stress, to improve their mood, or to forget about their problems. For compulsive buyers, shopping gives them a feeling of euphoria and a rush of positive emotions, much like a drug addict feels when he or she gets high. Just like a drug addict, a shopaholic cannot stop their activity simply by trying hard enough.

Compulsive shoppers often feel the need to buy things because it helps them feel in control. Someone who has suffered emotional trauma in the past, or who experienced chaos in their life, or who feels powerless because of a bad relationship may turn to shopping to gain control.

The American Psychiatric Association has developed a list of symptoms associated with shopping addiction that individuals can use to help determine if they have a compulsive shopping disorder. Individuals that experience more than 4 of the following may have a shopping addiction and should consider getting professional help:

  • Shopping or spending money as result of feeling disappointed, angry, or scared
  • Shopping or spending habits causing emotional distress in one’s life
  • Having arguments with others about one’s shopping or spending habits
  • Feeling lost without credit cards
  • Buying items on credit that would not be bought with cash
  • Feeling a rush of euphoria and anxiety when spending money
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, or confused after shopping or spending money
  • Lying to others about purchases made or how much money was spent
  • Thinking excessively about money
  • Spending a lot of time juggling accounts or bills to accommodate spending

Treatment for Shopping Addiction

Compulsive shopping often requires professional treatment in the form of therapy and behavior modification techniques to overcome. The individual suffering with a shopping addiction must first of all address the underlying reasons for their compulsive shopping, and then work to manage triggers to shop. Many individuals in recovery also go through financial courses and are encouraged to monitor all their purchases, pay only cash for items, and create a strict budget.

There are a number of treatment centers that specialize in treating compulsive shoppers, including the Ranch, the Recovery Place, the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, Debtors Anonymous, and the ControlCenter. These organizations help individuals learn how to curb their spending and how to manage stress and emotional issues. They also provide individuals in recovery with a support system to rely on when the temptation to shop arises.