What are the signs and symptoms of shopping addiction?
Shopping addiction is a serious and destructive behavioural addiction, characterised by individuals shopping for items and spending money in a compulsive manner. Like many other forms of addiction, individuals who struggle with compulsive shopping typically experience a rush of euphoria immediately after making a purchase, thus inducing a natural ‘high’. This ‘rush’ happens due to the release of the brain’s ‘happy chemical’, dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and reward. Thus, the feelings of excitement and euphoria that shopping addicts experience can mimic the effects of a drug-induced high, causing a psychological tolerance to build, and resulting in people wanting to achieve the same high over and over again until a harmful addiction has developed.
At Manor Clinic, we deliver recovery-focused treatment for shopping addiction when this co-occurs alongside a drug or alcohol addiction. Our highly experienced team are dedicated to delivering a wide range of evidence-based therapeutic techniques, empowering you to address the reasons why your compulsive shopping behaviours developed in the first place, improve your self-esteem, and take steps towards the healthy and fulfilling life that you deserve.
The following are all signs that you, or someone that you know, may be struggling with a destructive shopping addiction.
Behavioural/social symptoms of shopping addiction:
- Shopping on a frequent and ongoing basis, either in person or online
- Shopping for items not because you necessarily need or want them, but because you experience an overwhelming compulsion to do so
- Setting yourself a budget for your shopping sprees, but regularly exceeding this
- Experiencing a sense of happiness and euphoria immediately after making a purchase, followed by feelings of shame and guilt about how much you have bought and how much money you have spent
- Trying to conceal your shopping and spending habits from friends and family e.g. by hiding new purchases or lying about where things have come from
- Continuing to shop even when you don’t have the money to do so, or if you’re already in debt
- Trying but failing to limit how often you go shopping or the amount of money that you spend
- Finding that you are unable to stop thinking about when and where you will be able to shop next and feeling as though shopping has taken over your life
- Being unable to curb your shopping habits despite the negative impact that your compulsive shopping has had on multiple areas of your life
- Losing interest in activities, hobbies or responsibilities that were once important to you
- Experiencing relationship problems as a result of your constant spending
- Withdrawing from loved ones, leading to social isolation
- Denying that you have a problem, both to yourself and others
Psychological symptoms of shopping addiction:
- Building a psychological tolerance to shopping due to the ‘feel good’ chemicals that are released when you make a purchase
- Experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and irritability, when you are unable to going shopping or buy something
- Using shopping as a way of boosting your mood or coping with difficult emotions such as stress
- Becoming angry and agitated if someone challenges your shopping habits or asks you to cut back on the amount that you are spending
- Inability to focus or concentrate at work, due to wanting to go shopping, or spending your time shopping online whilst at work
- Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems
What are the long-term effects of shopping addiction?
Shopping addiction can also result in a whole host of long-term negative effects such as:
- Strained or ruined relationships
- Family breakdowns
- Serious financial problems
- Problems at work, which could lead to dismissal and unemployment
- Onset of additional mental health and addiction problems
This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in November 2019 and is scheduled to be reviewed again in November 2021.