Understanding Shopping Addiction

What is a Shopping Addiction?

A shopping addiction is a very real problem for many people. Sometimes people think that having a shopping addiction only means that someone loves to shop. This is far from the definition of what it is. When someone has an actual shopping addiction, it can affect his or her entire life in a very negative way.

Shopping Addiction Information

According to HealthLine, shopping addiction affects 18 million adults in the United States. Compulsive shopping is a very real condition, although it's not specifically recognized as a mental health disorder. It shares a number of characteristics with other types of addictions. That means that it should be treated like any other addiction.

It's actually not uncommon for shopping addiction to occur alongside other mental health problems. Many people with this condition will also suffer from anxiety, depression, or even substance abuse. Getting the right kind of treatment is so important. Otherwise, recovery from this addiction is not likely to happen.

At Northpoint Washington, we recognize the seriousness of shopping addiction. We've worked with many people who had this condition, and we've helped them recover. With the right kind of therapy, recovery is possible for you too.

If you think you may have a shopping addiction, it's important to learn as much about it as you can. Educating yourself is the key to overcoming this addictive behavior.

What Does it Mean to be a Shopaholic?

A shopping addiction is known as a process addiction. This is a type of addiction that doesn't involve any particular type of substance. Instead, it involves a behavior, and in this case, that behavior is shopping.

For someone who is a shopaholic, that individual feels a compulsive need to shop. He or she most likely goes through several stages for each cycle of the shopping binge. That person probably:

  • Begins with some tension or even arousal when thinking about going shopping
  • Has a strong urge to shop and purchase products
  • Experiences temporary sensations of relief when actually making the purchase
  • Experiences feelings of guilt soon after the purchase is done
  • Repeats this process over and over again

There are definitely cravings involved for shopaholics. Those cravings can become quite intense at times. In fact, most of the time they are uncontrollable. Shopaholics will not even consider any of the negative consequences shopping may bring upon them. They may know the risks involved, such as bouncing a check or making a spouse or partner angry. They don't have any concerns about declined credit cards or whether or not they'll be able to pay their bills. In that moment, their only concern is feeding their addictions.

Shopaholics are psychologically dependent upon shopping. They think about it all the time, and they have urges to experience those sensations of euphoria. For many of them, shopping is a way to calm anxiety, grief or stressful feelings. Like many other process addictions, shopping addiction is usually acting in concert with another problem.

Symptoms Many Shopping Addicts Have in Common

It's not always easy to tell if you're a shopping addict. There are people who just love to shop. Going on a spur-of-the-moment shopping spree once in a while does not mean you're addicted. It doesn't even mean that you're addicted to shopping if you spend too much money. Shopping addiction has more to do with the feelings involved with this behavior. It also depends on how it affects your life.

There are different types of symptoms that shopping addicts tend to have in common. They are both emotional and physical.

Some of the emotional signs of a shopping addict include:

  • Having a tendency to hide the addiction
  • Lying about how much was spent during shopping trips
  • Frequently spend more money than they can afford
  • Shopping as a way to ease feelings of depression or anger
  • Shopping to soothe the guilt from the last shopping spree
  • Harming personal relationships because of shopping or spending too much money
  • Feeling as though the shopping behavior is out of control

Some of the physical symptoms of shopping addiction include:

  • Going through withdrawal when unable to shop
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Feeling excited or euphoric after making purchases
  • Lack of sleep, and physical evidence of this

Shopaholics will also buy items that aren't really needed just because there was a good deal for them. They may experience significant financial problems. Usually, if they realize there is a problem, they'll try to stop, but fail at every attempt.

Are There Different Types of Shopping Addictions?

There are actually many different types of shopping addictions. This behavior is something that affects people differently. Some people may tend to yield toward one type of shopping, while others don't care. They will participate in more than one type, or even all of them.

The different types of shopping addictions are:

  • Compulsive shopping addicts who will shop when they feel emotionally stressed out.
  • “Trophy” shopaholics who are constantly on the lookout for the perfect item to purchase.
  • Shopaholics who want to portray an image of being big spenders. These are individuals who love expensive and flashy purchases.
  • Bargain shoppers who are always looking for a great deal. These individuals will frequently purchase items that go unused.
  • Shoppers who get caught in an addiction cycle of buying items and then returning them.
  • People who like to collect certain items when they shop. They don't feel complete until they have particular items in every color or style.

There are also those people who prefer only shopping in person or shopping online exclusively. Regardless of what the behavior looks like, it all falls under the heading of shopping addiction. It can wreak havoc in a person's life. It leads to marital and relationship problems, financial drain and even further mental health issues.

Are You a Shopaholic? Find Out if You Have a Problem

After looking at all of these symptoms and signs, you might still be wondering, am I a shopaholic? This is a good question. A shopping addiction isn't always easy to identify within yourself. Chances are, other people see it and realize it before you do. Still, it might be helpful to ask yourself some questions.

Take a look at the following questions and answer them honestly. Your answers will give you a better idea about your shopping behaviors.

  • Do you ever find that you shop because you feel angry or depressed?
  • Is shopping something that helps to relieve anxiety or loneliness for you?
  • Do you frequently have arguments with other people about your shopping habits?
  • Do you ever feel lost if you don't have your credit or debit cards with you?
  • Do you go through withdrawal if you don't have any money to spend?
  • Do you always purchase items on credit, rather than using cash?
  • Do you get an intense rush when you complete a purchase?
  • After a major shopping spree, do you suffer with feelings of guilt or remorse?
  • Do you ever feel embarrassed about how much money you spend when you shop?
  • Do you lie to other people about how much money you spent?
  • Do you constantly obsess about money?
  • Do you spend a lot of time figuring out how to juggle your bills to have money to shop?

Answering yes to more than three of these questions means that you probably do have a shopping addiction. There's no need for you to feel ashamed of this. Shopping addiction is something that can happen to anyone. However, it is important for you to recognize it so that you can do something about it.

Who is at Risk for Compulsive Shopping?

There are certain risk factors that can make someone more prone to being a shopping addict. While there really isn't a specific cause, knowing the risks can help. The following all contribute to instances of shopping addiction.

Emotional Stability

Poor self-esteem, stress and other emotions can be a predictor of a potential shopping addiction. This is according to the Journal of Behavioral Addictions. These individuals have a very hard time regulating their emotions on their own.

Chemical Imbalance in the Brain

For shopping addicts, their behaviors are linked to the brain's reward center. Shopping releases excess dopamine into the brain. This is what gives them a sense of euphoria. For some, it might just help them feel normal. In this way, shopping addiction is very much like addictions to drugs or alcohol.


Women are at a slightly higher risk for shopping addiction than men. This may be because they're taught at a young age to enjoy shopping. They're taught that it's a way to have fun with friends, and even relieve stress. It is an emotional experience for them that helps to improve their self-worth.

Family History

Like many other types of addictions, having a family history of shopping addiction makes a difference. For someone who has watched a close relative participate in this behavior, a shopping addict is much more likely.

Mental Health Conditions

Certain mental health conditions may play a role in shopping addiction. Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders and even psychotic episodes have all been linked. Also, substance abuse disorder demonstrates a strong link to shopping addiction as well.

Debtors Anonymous, Shopaholics Anonymous and Other Ways to Get Help

There are many different ways to get help if you have a shopping addiction. Support groups are one popular way, and there are a few to choose from.

Debtors Anonymous is a group that was formed in the 1970s. They focus on helping compulsive shoppers who need support and accountability to recover.

Shopaholics Anonymous is another group that offers help and counseling to people with shopping addictions. Their website is full of valuable and helpful information.

For many people, shopping addiction treatment is necessary for recovery. Talking with a professional about your options will help you understand the right method for you. You may be recommended for an inpatient or outpatient program, based on your needs. If you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder, such as a drug or alcohol addiction, this will help.

No matter what form of treatment you choose, it's best not to put off getting help. Doing so will only allow the addiction to continue to grow. Professional help is the key for your recovery.

Treatment for Shopping Addictions is Available

After reading this information about shopping addiction, do you feel that you're a shopaholic? If you do, please know that continuing with these behaviors is very dangerous for you. You may be putting important relationships in your life at risk. You may be suffering serious financial losses because of your compulsive shopping. To make matters worse, you may also be fueling other addictions or mental health issues in your life.

A shopping addiction can quickly get out of hand. Maybe you've reached that point, or you're approaching it soon. Either way, it's important for you to reach out for help as soon as possible. Shopping addiction treatment can provide you with the support you need to overcome this addiction. You may have thought that rehab was only for those with drug or alcohol problems. However, addictions often reach much further than that. Behavioral or process addictions are very real, and they negatively impact people's lives every single day.

At Northpoint Washington, we understand how you may be feeling right now. It might seem odd to you to seek professional help for something you feel you should be able to control. The fact is that many people are in the same situation that you're in now. They believe they should have self-control over their shopping addictions, but they don't. They try to stop shopping compulsively, but they can't. If you can relate to that, professional help is the solution you're looking for.

Do you suffer from a shopping addiction? Are you looking for a way to get help? Please contact us today to learn more.