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Shopping Addiction – A Behavior Problem

In recent years, excessive and compulsive shopping is being recognized by mental health experts as a behavioral addiction.

Development of shopping addiction in some people

Obsessive-compulsive behavior of shopping addiction which is impacting a growing number of people is studied to have four phases that keep repeating:

Anticipation phase: In this phase a person develops persistent feelings and obsessive thoughts about one particular item or with a single action around shopping.

Preparation phase: In this phase preparation and planning happens. The person constantly thinks about things such as where to buy, how to go there, and which credit cards to use

Shopping phase: This execution phase where the actual experience of shopping happens generally includes intense feelings of exhilaration.

Spending phase: Paying for the purchase comes immediately after shopping. This phase is said to generate feelings of regret and guilt leading to feelings of sadness and depression. To overcome these negative feelings, the person goes back to the vicious cycle of the four phases.

Characteristics of shopping addiction

People with shopping behavior issues have certain characteristics. These include:

  • Using shopping as a coping mechanism to numb emotional pain
  • Being secretive about their shopping trips
  • Urge for shopping triggered by stress factors such as low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness, and other negative emotions
  • Impulse buying to the point where their shelves are filled with unopened items.
  • Experiencing a rush of euphoria from purchasing the process rather than from owning the item
  • Frequent use of credit card to post-pone the stress of paying the debt to the immediate gratification and the euphoria of purchasing experience
  • Buying followed by feelings of remorse and guilt and remorse which  in turn could trigger more shopping, making this a vicious cycle

Consequences of shopping addiction

In addition to the economic costs associated with the buying problem, experts believe it to being a true mental health disorder. This is because abnormal shopping behavior continues or even intensifies in spite of clearly noticeable negative consequences. The consequences may include:

  • Mental agony and distress including guilt and remorse
  • Too much time devoted to the buying process
  • Overspending and going into debt
  • Job-related problems due to online shopping
  • Social problems as a result of excess spending, especially marital discord and divorce

Treatment to the problem

While there is no standard treatment for shopping addiction, medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are the two common options.

Studies that tested the use of medication generally used to treat anxiety and depression to treat shopping addiction did not give consistent results. Research is still ongoing.  

A common method of treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy.  This therapy involves a process of identifying and correcting problem behaviors connected with the way a person thinks, behaves, and feels, all of which might be contributing to their addiction or compulsive behaviors related to shopping.

Balance Between Normal Shopping and Shopaholism (or Compulsive Buying Disorder)

Everyone enjoys a good shopping experience. In fact, it is an essential part of regular life. It also feels good to go on a stroll in the mall, or finding a favorite item on sale. But how to balance a retail pick-me-up therapy with the extreme shopping addiction or compulsive behavior in some people, turning the issue into even addiction in a few of them.

Shopping addiction or spending behavior problem has specific terms. The terms are Shopaholism, Oniomania, or Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD). Explained in everyday language, it is a behavioral disorder characterized by an obsession and a very strong impulse to buy things.

This excessive part of the buying behavior, an otherwise normal action, results in negative consequences. If left unchecked, it can drag people into severe financial problems and social problems similar to other well-known addictions like alcoholism and gambling addiction.

Compared to other types of addiction, shopping addiction often goes undetected by family and friends till debt becomes unmanageable or till it leads to other issues that bring the underlying problem to light.

It is essential to understand that people with Compulsive Buying Disorder usually also suffer from other mental health issues. It could be that abnormal shopping impulses are the person’s way of handling anxiety, depression, or bad moods. However, as with other addictions, excessive buying activity over a long period of time can make people even worse due to the inevitable consequences such as debt and social issues.

Studies identified an observational method to diagnose shopping addiction by looking for behavioral patterns such as:

  • Frequent fights and arguments about money with loved ones
  • Maxing out or exceeding credit card limits
  • Taking several lines of credit or loans
  • Frequent overdrafts on debit cards
  • Asking friends and family for money without a valid reason.

Unfortunately, people with extreme patterns of compulsive shopping behavior who are faced with piling debt could even resort to lying, theft, or financial fraud to continue with their addiction.

Due to a lack of sufficient research into shopping addiction, it is not recognized as a mental health disorder yet. Scientists are still debating whether compulsive and excessive buying should be considered as an impulse-control, obsessive-compulsive, or addictive disorder. Bue, many health care professionals agree that compulsive shopping has all the characters of a process addiction associated with mental health issues.

People with a shopping addiction usually shop alone, even if their friends share their love of shopping. For them, it’s a private pleasure, and they may feel embarrassed about their unusual behavior.

The first step to get help is to acknowledge that you have a problem related to shopping which is not normal. Once you take this step, you will have the motivation to look for help. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a recommended method of treatment. It involves identifying and correcting problems associated with the way people feel, think and behave that are related to the addiction or compulsive behaviours.


The basic purpose of shopping, is to purchase items which you need. The fundamental item which validates your shopping is money.

Therefore, if you have money, you can purchase whatever you want to. There are some people who show good habits and mental health acts when they are shopping, and there are those who find it totally impossible to control themselves.

People who are not addicted to shopping are meticulous in doing so. What they do prior to shopping is, they make a list of the items they need, and they see if it fits with their budget. They also set a spending limit, so that they would not exceed their budget.

In addition to this, people who are not addicted to shopping have a good sense of what is necessary, and what is not, so they shop in line with that. These set of people are very structured when it comes to spending.

For those who are addicted to shopping, their case is totally different. First off, they do not make concrete plans as regards shopping. They are moved by the items in the store where they are going to.

They do not have a budget for their spending, and a good number of times, they go for what is necessary.

Usually, when they are done shopping, and they are going through the items at home, they discover they had left out an important item, and at this point, their money would have been exhausted.

The downside of shopping addiction is, if care is not taken, this set of people can go to the length of stealing money or defrauding people, so that they can satisfy their addiction needs.

Shopping addicts are so unpredictable, one point they want to buy something, and the next, they have changed their mind. This happens basically because they do not know what they want.

To wrap it up, people who have shopping addiction tend to pick up quarrels and disagreement with the shop attendants, and the reason for this is not far-fetched, it is because their minds are not usually made up.  

What to Buy, What Not to Buy

responsible consumerKnowing the difference between intelligent purchases and frivolous purchases can be challenging. Needs and wants are more relative to the budget a person has to work with than they are to how critical the item is. A person with a lot to spend may consider a certain purchase critical while a person with a smaller budget might consider the purchase frivolous. When determining what to buy and what not to buy, it is good to consider the necessity of the item, how the item will benefit you, how sustainable the item is and the budget that it needs to be purchased under.

The things that you do buy should meet the four qualifications listed above. Most people can generally assess whether or not an item is necessary by imagining how often they will need it, or by considering how often they have needed it in the past. One should also consider how healthy the item is to themselves and to the people in their residence. Items like celery or yogurt are obviously universally healthy to most households. Similarly, one should consider the health of the planet when they are making purchases. Try to choose items that did not leave a considerable carbon footprint in order to manufacture. And lastly, one must always consider the kind of budget they have to work with when shopping. Do some research and determine what a responsible shopping budget is for your income level, then list your desired purchases accordingly.

In contrast, the things you should not buy are the opposite of the things you should. Determine if the item you desire is a pleasure purchase by thinking about if it matters as much as an essential purchase. If the item is unhealthy, you should not buy it, save for perhaps a few specific indulgences that you have chosen for that particular shopping trip. Never purchase an item that you know is unsustainable or unethical. And do not spend money that you do not have. Make sure your income supports your shopping habits and that your budget is balanced.

Keeping Your Shopping Habits in Check

check your shopping habitsEveryone can benefit from examining their personal shopping tendencies and analyzing them for areas that need improvement. What you can gather based on the discussions in this blog is that there is a decidedly healthy and logical way to approach shopping, and an unhealthy, inefficient way to approach shopping, and the method you choose can reveal a lot about you. A small, isolated purchases here and there does not really exemplify your shopping habits, but the way you shop routinely and habitually does. Habitual shopping habits can have an enormous effect on a person’s finances and other personal resources, such as time, energy and even relationships. It is not a matter to take lightly. Below are several useful pointers that can help you shop intelligently.

  • Do not shop on a whim, but rather keep a list of items you need building up. This will save you trips to the store.
  • When you have enough items on the list that are necessities, schedule a shopping trip, allowing for enough time to acquire all the items.
  • Always budget first and know exactly how much you have to spend on shopping so the rest of your finances won’t be negatively effected.
  • Estimate the prices of the items as compared to your target price to get an idea of the cost, allowing for tax and a little bit of wiggle room in case you do not estimate accurately. Be prepared to practice self control and abandon non-essential items.
  • Be sure to bring the list to the store with you, resolving to only buy the things on the list with few exceptions, only for absolute essentials that you forgot to list.
  • Shop methodically, from one side of the store to the other, practicing patience with other shoppers and workers. Pay with a premeditated payment method.
  • When you are done, bring your purchases home, unpack, and revel in your absence of buyer’s remorse because the experience of shopping did not surprise you with unexpected negative consequences!

Striving for Good Shopping Habits

shopping habitsFinding a perfect balance between purchasing what you need and saving money can be very difficult. Most people feel like there is never enough money to do both right. It is very common for a person to either fall into the category of being too frugal to the point of denying themselves necessities or being uncontrolled in their spending to the point of damaging their finances. The latter of the two is much more common, as the average reader could guess. In order to achieve good spending habits and, more broadly, good mental health, it is very important for you to manage your spending habits so as not to lose control of your finances.

In order to achieve good shopping habits, you must critically examine your shopping behavior to determine whether or not you are a healthy shopper. A healthy shopper possesses certain characteristics that distinguish them from other shoppers. First and foremost, they never go for a shopping expedition without considering their budget and predetermining the amount they will allow themselves to spend. A particularly careful shopper will even list the items they need to purchase to ensure that they are only buying the absolute essentials.

Unhealthy shoppers have entirely different shopping behaviors. For an unhealthy shopper, shopping is typically much more of an impulse behavior. They may be in the habit of shopping in order to be happy or using shopping as therapy. Shopping addiction has been determined to be a treatable addiction in certain people and can easily qualify a person for addiction treatment and rehabilitation. Shopping addicts are highly unlikely to create a budget for their shopping excursions. Items purchased are frequently not necessities at all, but are instead “feel good” items that give the shopper euphoric feelings of instant gratification. This type of compulsive shopping often leads to overspending and financial hardship, which can take a serious toll on an individual’s personal life.

A Healthy Shopper

healthy shopper

Shopping is an activity that we all engage in frequently. For most people, shopping is the system used to achieve the necessities and commodities we rely on in our everyday lives. It is a very common, basic practice that we engage in, and can become a reflection of our mental health and our level of responsibility. Your shopping habits can indicate what kind of person you are and how well prepared you are in life.

For example, someone who is mentally healthy and responsible will typically be in the habit of preparing for their shopping trips to some degree. With the exception of spontaneous shopping trips for small necessities, a responsible shopper will typically have shopping excursions methodically and on a schedule. They prepare for their shopping trips by listing the items they are in need of, then weighing them against a budget. If their budget does not allow for the entire list, they eliminate items. Their planning and budgeting is meticulous and they can foresee the process of shopping in order to prepare for it. To get a mental health checkup, one should go and seek professional advice from a mental health authority on the subject.

While they are shopping, they are weighing their shopping list with time and money management, all the while practicing self control. They pass by items that would make for enjoyable pleasure purchases and focus on the necessities that were premeditated. If something unexpected comes up or they remember an item they need but forgot to list, they consult their budget in order to make room for the item. They are seldom seen dashing around the store without a plan, but rather thinking carefully about every item they put in their cart and going through each aisle systematically.

One of the biggest differences between a prepared shopper and an ill-prepared shopper is the absence of buyer’s remorse. Because the prepared shopper foresaw their shopping experience in advance – what items they would bring home and how much it would cost them – they are not taken aback at all when they get home by their purchases because they anticipated the benefits and the costs of their shopping.