What is a Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction is a type of behavioral addiction that involves the compulsive urge to buy things as a means of feeling better and avoiding unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and depression. Similar to other behavioral addictions, shopping addiction can become an obsession, which can lead to negative impacts on other aspects of your life.

Compulsive shopping is often referred to as shopping addiction, which is perhaps the most socially acceptable addiction.

Signs of Shopping Addiction

Signs that a person might have a shopping addiction include:

  • Constantly thinking about things they want to buy
  • Being unable to control the urge to shop
  • Feeling excitement after making a purchase
  • Feeling guilty about past purchases
  • Financial problems or an inability to pay off debts
  • Lying about things they have bought or hiding their purchases
  • Buying things they don't need
  • Shopping when they are stressed or sad

Individuals struggling with shopping addiction often spend more time and money shopping than they can afford, which can result in financial difficulties.

Causes of Shopping Addiction

The exact causes of shopping addiction are not entirely clear; however, several factors may contribute to its development.

Mental Health Conditions

Shopping addiction often co-occurs with other disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, impulse control disorders, and personality disorders. This addiction usually begins in late adolescence and early adulthood.

Personality Characteristics

Many individuals who struggle with shopping addiction share a common personality trait that sets them apart from others. Their low self-esteem makes them vulnerable to external influences, and they often feel isolated and lonely. Despite this, they tend to be kindhearted, sympathetic, and polite to others. Shopping serves as a means for them to connect with others, although it is not an effective way to boost their self-esteem.


Individuals with a shopping addiction generally exhibit a higher level of materialism compared to regular shoppers. They seek to elevate their self-worth by pursuing status through material possessions and approval from others. They tend to indulge in excessive daydreaming and have difficulty controlling their urges, as is common with other forms of addiction.

Exposure to Advertising

People suffering from a shopping addiction may be more vulnerable to the constant marketing and advertising messages that surround them. Although advertising, in general, is meant to amplify the benefits of purchase and imply that it can provide a way out from life's difficulties, some marketing techniques are specifically designed to provoke impulsive buying and target the impulsive tendencies of those who struggle with a shopping addiction.

Retail Therapy

Shopping addiction, like any other addiction, is often used as a coping mechanism for dealing with life's emotional pain and difficulties. Sadly, rather than providing relief, it tends to exacerbate the problem for the shopper.

Some individuals who enjoy shopping and find solace in it use the term "retail therapy." This phrase suggests that purchasing something for oneself can provide the same benefits as seeking therapy or counseling. However, this is an incorrect and unhelpful notion.

Buying something new can actually help you solve a problem, but this is not what we typically call retail therapy. When people engage in retail therapy, they purchase items that are not really necessary, and the cost of these items may end up taking away resources that could be used to solve other problems in their lives.

Is Shopping Addiction a Real Addiction?

Shopping addiction is a debated topic, and there are varying opinions about whether it can be classified as a true addiction. Some experts are skeptical about the idea that excessive shopping can be an addiction, as they believe that a psychoactive substance is necessary to produce physical symptoms such as tolerance and withdrawal. Additionally, there is disagreement among professionals regarding whether compulsive shopping should be classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), impulse control disorder (similar to kleptomania or compulsive stealing), mood disorder (like depression), or behavioral addiction (like gambling disorder).

How to Cope With Shopping Addiction

Overcoming any addiction requires finding alternative ways to cope with the stress and distress of daily life. While it's possible to do this on your own, it's often helpful to seek counseling or therapy. In the meantime, there are several steps you can take to reduce the harm caused by compulsive spending and regain control. One good starting point is to develop your spending plan.

Other helpful actions may include:

Develop other coping strategies

Finding alternative ways of enjoying your leisure time is essential to breaking the cycle of using shopping as a way of trying to feel better about yourself.

Don't shop with other compulsive shoppers

It's a good idea to shop with friends or relatives who don't compulsively spend, as they can help you curb your spending habits.

Enlist the help of others

If someone else in your family can take responsibility for shopping for essentials, it can help to delegate the responsibility to them, at least temporarily, while you need help.

Limit access to credit and cash

It's a wise decision to discard credit cards and carry only a small amount of emergency cash to avoid impulsive purchases.

Final Words

Shopping addiction can be just as distressing as any other addiction. However, there is hope. Receiving support from those around you can help you to control your spending. Always remember that you are a valuable person, regardless of how much or how little you own.