Shopping Addiction: Causes, Signs, And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 5, 2021

Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder, commonly co-occurs with other types of addictions, like drug or alcohol addiction. Although not a recognized disorder, shopping addiction may be treated with therapy and medication.

Shopping Addiction

Compulsive buying disorder, also known as oniomania or shopping addiction, affects an estimated 5.8 percent of Americans at some point in their lifetime.

While shopping is a common activity, for some it can become a compulsive habit characterized by an uncontrollable pattern of purchasing unwanted or unneeded items.

Shopping addiction often develops in people with other mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.

Learn more about the causes and treatments of behavioral addictions

What Is A Shopping Addiction?

People often joke about turning to ‘retail therapy’ or shopping as an outlet to reduce stress, anxiety, or sadness. For some, however, shopping can become an addictive habit.

Shopping addiction, or compulsive buying, is an uncontrollable compulsion to purchase items, even when they are unwanted or unneeded.

Although not an official diagnosis, shopping addiction has been likened to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and impulse control disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania.

Who Develops Shopping Addiction?

Shopping addiction is more often identified in women than men, although men can still develop this type of addiction.

What is known about shopping addiction:

  • This addiction typically develops in young adulthood, before the age of 30.
  • Shopping addiction is a controversial topic, with no clear agreement among mental health professionals as to whether this can be characterized as a disorder.
  • Compulsive buying habits may run in families with similar shopping habits, or families with a history of mental health or substance use disorders.
  • Shopping addiction frequently co-occurs with other types of disorders, such as depression, anxiety, alcohol use disorder, and nicotine dependence.

Signs Of A Shopping Addiction

Shopping for fun, or shopping very often, is not itself a sign of a shopping addiction. To identify a shopping addiction, it can help to know some of the understood signs of this compulsion.

Signs of a shopping addiction might include:

  • using shopping as a way to cope with stress
  • feeling euphoria or relief after shopping
  • unsuccessful attempts to control or reduce how much you shop
  • difficulty resisting the urge to purchase unneeded items
  • continuing to purchase unneeded items despite financial or personal consequences
  • getting into legal troubles as a result of shopping
  • constantly thinking about shopping
  • problems with work or school as a result of compulsive shopping

The hallmark sign of an addiction is continuing to engage in a behavior despite negative consequences—and feeling unable to control it.

For some, this can cause shame, embarrassment, and guilt. Unfortunately, if shopping becomes a way to cope with these feelings, this may develop into what can feel like an uncontrollable cycle.

Causes Of Shopping Addiction

Behavioral addictions, including shopping addiction, may be influenced by a variety of factors, including a person’s upbringing, their mental health, and their environment.

Although research on shopping addiction is limited, there is some evidence to suggest common characteristics of those who are affected by this addiction.

For instance, people with a shopping addiction are more likely to:

  • have low self-esteem
  • have anxiety or depression
  • be impulsive
  • be female
  • be perfectionistic

The cause of a shopping addiction is largely believed to be psychological. However, this can run in families and may be influenced by a personal and family history of compulsive behaviors.

Consequences Of Compulsive Shopping Disorder

Compulsive shopping is a progressive condition that can have negative effects on a person’s mental health and way of life over time.

Compulsive shopping may cause:

  • financial issues
  • legal problems (e.g. if stealing)
  • relationship troubles
  • depression

Compulsive shopping can become an unsupportive coping mechanism for dealing with depression, anxiety, anger, or frustration.

In time, however, this can create a reliance on shopping that may become disruptive to a person’s life.

Shopping Addiction And Co-Occurring Disorders

Compulsive shopping is often likened to other types of compulsions and addictive habits, including compulsive hair-pulling, binge-eating, and skin-picking.

Common co-occurring disorders include:

  • mood disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • personality disorders
  • substance use disorders
  • impulse control disorders
  • eating disorders

Having one or more mental health disorders is known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses.

People who have co-occurring disorders may benefit from a dual diagnosis treatment program.

Is There Treatment For Compulsive Shopping Disorder?

People who have a shopping addiction may benefit from individual behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There are also shopping addiction self-help groups.

If someone with a shopping addiction also has a co-occurring mental health or substance use disorder, additional treatment in a structured rehabilitation program may be recommended.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs include:

  • inpatient dual diagnosis rehab
  • intensive outpatient programs
  • outpatient dual diagnosis rehab

Some substance abuse treatment programs offer treatment that may be capable of addressing both a person’s substance misuse and shopping addiction.

Generally, these co-occurring issues can be treated through detox, behavioral therapy, support groups, and medication.

Find Treatment For Shopping Addiction

Living with a shopping addiction can be isolating. This condition is not well-understood, particularly among the general public.

If someone you know is struggling with co-occurring shopping addiction and substance abuse, we can help you find a treatment program that’s right for you.

Call our helpline today to explore your treatment options for shopping addiction.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 5, 2021
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