Is Shopping Addiction Real?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The concept of shopping addiction is treated as somewhat of a joke: husbands talk about how their wives max out their credit cards with a laugh, and purses, shirts, and other merchandise are sold nearly everywhere, sporting the term “Shopaholic.” In reality, shopping addiction, also called compulsive buying disorder, is a real condition that can largely and negatively affect a person’s life.

Compulsive Buying Disorder

Shopping Addiction

Compulsive buying disorder is a behavioral addiction.

According to Indiana University, compulsive buying disorder “is similar to other addictive behaviors and has some of the same characteristics as problem drinking (alcoholism), gambling and overeating addictions.” Though many people see shopping addiction as a joke, it is in fact a real disorder that affects both men and women. Compulsive buying disorder can be dangerous as well as cause severe financial problems, issues between the addict and their loved ones, and other problems very much in the same way that other addictions can.

How Do You Know It’s Compulsive Buying Disorder?

Even though the disorder itself is real, it doesn’t mean every person who likes to shop automatically has this problem. It is important to understand the difference between being an avid shopper and having a dangerous addiction. Below are some of the signs that a person who enjoys shopping is actually addicted to the behavior and may need professional help.

  • The individual shops for a pick-me-up whenever they feel unhappy.
  • The individual has struggled or is struggling currently with depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental disorders that they often try to treat with unnecessary shopping.
  • The individual feels an almost drug-like high when purchasing something, the high becoming greater when there is more money or more products involved.
  • The individual constantly shops alone to avoid being judged for their purchases.
  • The individual has piles of purchases in their home, often with the tags still on them as they did not need the items in the first place.
  • The individual becomes extremely unhappy, anxious, depressed, or angry when they cannot shop.
  • The individual has experienced blackouts where they do not remember purchasing certain items.

According to the World Psychiatry Journal, compulsive buying disorder “tends to occur year round, although it may be more problematic during the Christmas or other important holidays, and around the birthdays of family members and friends.” This can cause instances of extreme credit card debt and other issues that the individual will often try to hide, sometimes by taking out more loans or credit cards and sometimes by getting a second job.

Shopping Addiction Can Occur

Shopping addiction, or compulsive buying disorder, is a real issue that can cause many problems for the shopper and their loved ones. Like other types of behavioral addictions, the treatment for this disorder often involves talk therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and others. In addition, some individuals have benefitted from the use of antidepressants, as this condition often goes hand-in-hand with serious mood problems.