A Shopping Addiction That Gets Out Of Control


Women UK talk to ABT (Addiction Behaviour Therapies) about ‘Shopping Addiction’ and the effect this genuine addiction has on families.

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A shopping addict is someone who shops compulsively and who may feel like they have no control over their behaviour.

Many people love to shop, a Saturday with your girlfriends the occasional blowout with a credit card can bring a lot of pleasure to millions but its not an addiction. Buying two pairs of shoes when you need only one is not a shopping addiction. Spending a few pounds if you are having a bad day is not an addiction.

But when some of the patterns and behaviours that we may recognise in other in more documented addictions such as alcoholism become clear and prevalent with shopping then there may be a problem.

Emotional Symptoms of a Shopping Addiction

Buying despite knowing that you can’t afford the purchase, buying when you know it will cause you problems but still buying? Hiding purchases from your spouse or family? These behaviours and many more may be a sign that you have an addiction.

If you hide credit card bills, shopping bags or receipts, you may be a shopaholic. In some cases, shopaholics may try to hide their addiction by lying about just one element of it. For instance, a person may admit they went shopping, but they may lie about how much they spent.

Some of the other emotional symptoms you may notice from a shopaholic include the following:

  • Spending more than they can afford
  • Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry or depressed
  • Shopping as a way to feel less guilty about a previous shopping spree
  • Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
  • Losing control of the shopping behaviour

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Are There Different Types of Shopping or Spending Addictions?

According to Shopaholics Anonymous, there are several different types of shopaholics, and they are as follows:

  • Compulsive shopaholics who shop when they are feeling emotional distress
  • Trophy shopaholics who are always shopping for the perfect item
  • Shopaholics who want the image of being a big spender and love flashy items
  • Bargain seekers who purchase items they don’t need because they are on sale
  • Bulimic shoppers who get caught in a vicious cycle of buying and returning
  • Collectors who don’t feel complete unless they have one item in each colour or every piece of a set.

What Causes an Addiction to Shopping?

According to Ruth Engs from Indiana University USA, some people develop shopping addictions because they essentially get addicted to how their brain feels while shopping. As they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive. A professor in applied health sciences, Engs claims that 10 to 15 percent of the population may be predisposed to these feelings.

Physical Symptoms of a Shopping Addiction ABT logo black

Although most addictions have physical symptoms related to them, shopping addictions may not. In most cases, the symptoms you experience due to your shopping addiction will be emotional in nature. The physical evidence of a shopping addiction may include a declining financial situation.

The short-term effects of a shopping addiction may feel positive. In many cases, you may feel happy after completing a shopping trip. However, these feelings are often mixed with anxiety or guilt, and in most cases, the guilt or anxiety may propel you back to the store for even more shopping.

The long-term effects of a shopping addiction can vary in intensity and scope. Many shopping addicts face financial problems, and they may become overwhelmed with debt. In some cases, they may simply max out their credit cards, but in other cases, they may take out a second mortgage on their home or charge purchases to their business credit card. If you are addicted to shopping, your personal relationships may also suffer. You may end up getting a divorce or distancing yourself from your parents, children or other loved ones.

“Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as inappropriate, excessive, and out of control,” says Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry  “Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses. In the western world, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping.”

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