What Are The Top 10 Signs Of Shopping Addiction?

A shopping addiction, often called compulsive buying or oniomania, is a behavioral addiction described as an excessive and overwhelming desire to make purchases that ultimately lead to negative repercussions. Shopping addiction can substantially harm a person’s life, including their relationships and financial well-being.

Individuals who struggle with a shopping addiction will often experience feelings of excitement or pleasure while shopping. These feelings can temporarily relieve feelings of stress, anxiety, or boredom. The alleviation of these feelings is what creates the addiction. However, the relief from these feelings that shopping provides is brief.

After making impulsive purchases, the person may soon feel guilt, regret, or shame. Regardless of adverse consequences, such as financial strain, relationship issues, or emotional distress, the addictive behavior of compulsive buying persists. If you are wondering whether your excessive shopping has crossed over into an addiction, it’s important to know the top 10 signs of shopping addiction.

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1. Compulsive Spending

Individuals with a shopping addiction will often spend a substantial amount of money or time on shopping, buying things that are not necessary or within their means. For instance, a person with a shopping addiction may use rent money to buy a luxury brand purse.

2. Emotional Attachment

When someone is addicted to shopping, they may experience a sense of euphoria or excitement when they shop, followed by feelings of regret or guilt. The emotional experience related to shopping is what fuels the addiction.

3. Loss Of Control

When addicted to shopping, individuals will continue to shop even though they know it negatively affects their lives. A person will feel an uncontrolled desire to keep shopping or make purchases despite any adverse consequences that occur because of it.

4. Preoccupation With Shopping

Individuals addicted to shopping will continuously think about shopping. They will continue browsing online stores or preparing their next shopping venture regardless of their other responsibilities or obligations.

5. Shopping To Relieve Negative Emotions

Shopping may become a coping tool for dealing with stress, anxiety, or other negative feelings. Individuals may also experience decreased feelings of depression when shopping, as well as emotional distress or a sense of emptiness when not shopping.

6. Financial Issues Related To Shopping

Individuals with an addiction to shopping may continue to shop even if they are in debt, cannot pay their bills, or have other financial issues. For example, someone addicted to shopping will continue to max out their credit cards even though they know they cannot pay for them.

7. Lying Or Hiding Their Purchases

Individuals may hide their shopping habits from others, feeling shame or embarrassment about their compulsive purchases. For instance, a person may wait until their spouse is asleep before bringing in purchases from the car to hide them in the closet before they notice what they’ve bought.

8. Shopping As A Recreational Activity

Individuals addicted to shopping may go shopping with friends or family as a way to bond or stay connected. They may also shop during their free time and lack other healthy hobbies.

9. Neglecting Responsibilities

Shopping may precede other essential responsibilities, such as work, school, or family obligations. This may cause individuals to ignore their loved ones, their self-care or health, and even their work productivity due to excessive shopping.

10. Legal Issues

Once an individual has used up all their resources due to a shopping addiction, they may want to shoplift or attempt to open credit cards in family member’s names just to get funds to shop.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

Shopping addiction may also co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as a substance use disorder.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 8 million people have a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental health condition called dual diagnosis. Co-occurring disorders are so common that experts have found nearly 40% of all those with substance use disorders have at least one other mental health condition, and vice versa.

Not everyone with a shopping addiction will develop a substance use disorder, and not all those with a substance use disorder will develop a shopping addiction. What it does mean, however, is that those with a shopping addiction are at a higher risk for developing a substance use disorder than those without.

The compulsive behaviors associated with shopping addictions are similar to those found in people who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is because of the way shopping can interact with the reward center of the brain.

People with a shopping addiction feel excited or happy when they shop, which temporarily helps them cope with stress, anxiety, or boredom. This relief is what ultimately can lead to addiction.

Find Help For Your Shopping Addiction

It is important to note that occasional impulsive purchases or enjoying shopping as a recreational activity are not inevitably indicative of a shopping addiction. Although, if these behaviors become excessive and disruptive and result in negative consequences, it may be something to worry about.

Treatment for shopping addiction often includes a mixture of behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and support groups. The objective is to identify and explore the underlying emotional triggers, develop healthy coping skills, and restore control over shopping behaviors. In some instances, financial planning, counseling, and debt management may also be necessary to tackle the economic impacts of the addiction.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting any of the top 10 signs of shopping addiction, it may be a sign that they need help. Additionally, if you believe these compulsive shopping behaviors may be accompanied by other mental health concerns or substance abuse, it’s imperative to seek help immediately.

For individuals struggling with shopping addiction, therapy is generally considered to be the best first step, especially for those with no co-occurring mental health or substance use disorders. Fortunately, online therapy has become a viable, trustworthy way to treat conditions like shopping addiction. Online therapy allows individuals to receive mental health care from licensed therapists while remaining in the comfort of their own homes. To learn more about online therapy for shopping addiction, view a full list of options here.

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Amber Biello-Taylor, CAP, LCSW

Photo of Amber Biello-Taylor, CAP, LCSW