Shopping Addiction − Signs, Causes and Strategies for Lasting Results

Last Updated: April 11, 2024

David Levin Reviewed by David Levin
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From tech gadgets to skincare and clothes, neuromarketers work hard to gain insight into customers’ motivations, preferences, and decisions to shape creative advertising, product development, and pricing strategies.

Most won’t give in to these ads, but around 5.8% of Americans suffering from compulsive buying disorder (CBD) will, purchasing goods they don’t need and growing a hard-to-pay debt.

With the onset of online shopping, compulsive spending has become even more prevalent. It is predicted to increase with virtual reality shopping experiences and AI recommendations, creating a never-ending cycle of buying cravings. Keep reading to learn about shopping addiction, its signs and causes, and the best practical strategies to overcome it.

What is Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD)?

Compulsive buying disorder, also known as buying-shopping disorder (BSD), pathological buying, or oniomania, is the irresistible and intrusive preoccupation with purchasing items, in-store or online shopping, causing severe financial strains.

This health condition classification is still under discussion due to their similarity with substance dependence in their tolerance, comorbidity, overlapping genetic interaction, neurobiological mechanisms, and response to treatment.

Due to these elements, most authors consider compulsive buying disorder as a behavioral addiction. In contrast, others include this condition in the “impulse-control disorders” group or within the obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) spectrum. Nonetheless, addiction to shopping is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

Signs and Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

People affected by compulsive shopping experience intrusive urges, reduced control over their purchasing and use shopping as a coping mechanism for self-regulation.

Even so, the behavior will persist or may escalate over time despite negative consequences, such as financial difficulties or impaired functioning. Notably, addiction to shopping is not solely attributed to periods of mania/hypomania or explained by other mental disorders or medical conditions.

  • Feeling strong, uncontrollable impulses to shop, even when it’s not necessary or practical
  • Often engaging in excessive shopping, beyond what is needed or affordable
  • Difficulty in controlling or stopping shopping behaviors
  • Using shopping as a way to cope with negative emotions or relieve stress
  • Experiencing financial problems, such as debt, maxed-out credit cards or difficulty paying bills
  • Neglecting responsibilities, relationships, or social activities in favor of shopping
  • Trying unsuccessfully to cut down or control shopping behavior
  • Accumulating a large number of items that are not needed or used (hoarding)
  • Concealing or lying about the extent of shopping habits from family, friends or loved ones

Causes of Shopping Addiction

The causes of compulsive buying disorder (CBD) are multi-layered and healthcare professionals should approach the situation with an open mind and take into account the following causes:

Relationship with other Health Disorders

As with most health conditions, compulsive shopping is rarely an isolated problem. During a study, 90% of cases of compulsive buyers had first and second-axis disorders such as:

  • Mood disorders (in a proportion of 21–100%)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Hoarding disorder
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Gambling addiction
  • Substance use disorders

Easy Access to Shopping during Youth

17% of children aged 8 to 14 have a credit card and 19% have a checking account.

While giving kids and teens small doses of independence under adult supervision can be beneficial, research indicates that shopping addiction usually starts in adolescence or young adulthood.

A study shows that teens with problem shopping were 2–3 times more likely to occasionally smoke, use marijuana, drink alcohol and caffeine and, use other drugs, feel sad or hopeless with a history of violence. Evidence that correlates with compulsive buying being comorbid with other disorders.

COVID-19 Impact and Artificial Intelligence for Shopping

It’s not a secret that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world and many of our habits. This unexpected health episode fueled compulsive shopping behaviors to ease stress, isolation, and boredom.

Moreover, immersive shopping experiences offered by VR technology intensify the pleasure of purchasing. At the same time, AI-powered algorithms fit product recommendations to individual preferences, pressuring people to keep up with trends, driving consumption and deepening dependence on shopping.

Health Risks of Shopping Addiction

Compulsive shopping, like other forms of addiction, can have serious health consequences including:

  • Significant financial problems, including debt, bankruptcy, and strained relationships
  • Financial burden increases stress and anxiety levels, exacerbating mental health issues
  • Neglected self-care and prioritization shopping over proper nutrition, exercise and healthcare
  • Feelings of guilt, shame and regret contribute to depression and low self-esteem
  • Interference with work or academic performance
  • In severe cases, legal problems, such as theft, fraud or financial crimes
  • Withdrawal from social activities or relationships to avoid judgment or conceal shopping habits
  • Compromised individual’s overall well-being, affecting their physical and mental health.

Am I Potentially Addicted to Shopping?

Only healthcare professionals must be the ones to conclude a diagnosis. The following self-assessment questions will solely help you to decide between seeking professional help:

  1. Do you often feel an intense urge or impulse to shop, even when you don’t need anything?
  2. Have you tried unsuccessfully to cut down or control your shopping habits?
  3. Do you frequently engage in shopping as a way to cope with negative emotions or relieve stress?
  4. Do you experience feelings of guilt, shame or regret after making purchases?
  5. Have your shopping habits led to debt, maxed-out credit cards or difficulty paying bills?
  6. Do you hide or lie about the extent of your shopping behaviors?
  7. Have your relationships or social activities been negatively impacted by your shopping habits?
  8. Do you often purchase items that you don’t need or use?
  9. Have you ever experienced withdrawal symptoms or distress when unable to shop for some time?

If you are concerned about your shopping habits, consider seeking help from a mental health professional or support group specializing in addiction.

Shopping Addiction − Intervention, Treatment and Help

Adequate treatment of comorbid psychiatric conditions improves recovery prognosis from compulsive shopping. Interventions can provide crucial opportunities for those struggling to express their concerns and encourage seeking help.

Since most authors consider this disorder as a behavioral addiction, proper treatment often involves financial coaching and therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to identify and change maladaptive thoughts and behaviors associated with compulsive shopping. It’s important to guide and support kids, teens and women who are most prone to develop this addiction.

An addiction specialist is the only one who can prescribe medication-assisted treatment interventions if needed. Seeking help from qualified mental health professionals specializing in addiction treatment guarantees personalized support.

People Also Ask

What is a shopping addiction?

Addiction to shopping, also known as compulsive shopping disorder, is a compulsive disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to shop, leading to excessive spending, financial difficulties and emotional distress.

Is compulsive shopping a mental disorder?

Compulsive shopping is still yet to be recognized as a mental disorder, but it’s often categorized as a behavioral addiction or impulse control disorder. It can significantly impair the ability to perform daily life tasks and negatively impact their well-being.

Is shopping addiction a form of OCD?

No, addiction to shopping is not a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). While both involve repetitive behaviors, compulsive buying is typically categorized as an impulse control disorder, distinct from the obsessive thoughts and compulsions of OCD.

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Page Sources

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Published on: January 13th, 2021

Updated on: April 11th, 2024

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