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Understanding Shopping Addiction

Understanding Shopping Addiction

Those with a shopping addiction exhibit a pattern of compulsive shopping that consumes much of their time, negatively impacts their personal relationships, and often causes financial problems. They cannot stop the addictive behavior, even when they want to do so.

Compulsive shopping may be used to block feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or other negative emotions. While the compulsive shopper feels happy or excited during the spending behavior, they often feel guilt and shame after they complete the purchase.

Although there is no specific diagnosis for shopping addiction or compulsive shopping, many professionals consider it to be similar to gambling or substance use disorder. In fact, shopping addiction often co-occurs with substance use disorders, eating disorders, and anxiety, or other mood disorders.

Without treatment, shopping addiction usually worsens.

Difference Between a Shopping Addiction and Impulsive Shopping

People with a shopping addiction feel great pleasure as they think about, plan, and then actively engage in their next shopping behavior. They may experience uncontrollable urges that become more intense until satisfied. After they make the purchase, their emotions quickly change from pleasure to shame, guilt, and disappointment in themselves.

Impulse purchases happen infrequently and do not conform to a recurrent pattern of shopping. They may occur in response to an emotional or social trigger but are not compulsive behaviors.

Signs of Shopping Addiction

The results of a research project on shopping addiction by the Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen, were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2015. The findings were used to develop the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale, citing seven basic criteria used to identify shopping addiction. Their criteria are:

  • You think about shopping/buying things all the time.”
  • You shop/buy things in order to change your mood.
  • You shop/buy so much that it negatively affects your daily obligations (e.g., school and work).
  • You feel you have to shop/buy more and more to obtain the same satisfaction as before.
  • You have decided to shop/buy less, but have not been able to do so.
  • You feel bad if you, for some reason, are prevented from shopping/buying things.
  • You shop/buy so much that it has impaired your well-being.”

According to the authors of the study, if you agree with at least four of the seven criteria, you may have a shopping addiction. If so, it is important you seek guidance from your doctor or an addiction specialist.

Other signs of a shopping addiction may include maxing out credit cards, taking out multiple loans or lines of credit, incurring overdraft fees, and having frequent money-related arguments with loved ones.

A shopping addiction can seriously damage your important relationships and your quality of life. If you suspect you have a shopping addiction, reach out to an addiction specialist to learn about treatment and recovery options.

Check the following online resources for support group information and educational materials.

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