Are You a Shopaholic? Signs to Know

By Stacey Leasca · October 03, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Are You a Shopaholic? Signs to Know

People shop for all kinds of reasons — to acquire the things they need or want, to browse stores for new and interesting finds, and (sometimes) for the little thrill that comes with snagging a great deal.

For some people, however, shopping crosses the line into unhealthy territory. If you tend to hit the stores every weekend, spend the majority of free time planning for and making purchases, and/or have have tallied up some major debt as a result of your frequent shopping, you may actually be addicted to shopping.

Known as oniomania or Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD), shopping addiction is a behavioral disorder that involves compulsive buying as a way to feel good and avoid negative feelings like stress and anxiety. Like other types of addictions, a shopping addiction can take over as a preoccupation that leads to problems in other areas of your life.

Read on to learn some of the signs of being a shopaholic and ways to curb the habit.

4 Shopaholic Symptoms

People who are addicted to shopping often get a sense of emotional relief right after buying something. They also tend to spend more time and money on shopping than they can afford, and many get into financial problems — such as large amounts of credit card debt — as a result of their overspending.

Below are four signs that you may be addicted to shopping.

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1. Experiencing a Rush of Excitement When You Buy

Shopaholics generally shop not because they really need something but rather for the sense of euphoria they experience when they’re shopping.

Similar to a drug addiction, compulsive shoppers will often experience a “high” or an adrenaline rush from the act of purchasing something. The brain then associates shopping with this pleasure and the person wants to try and recreate that feeling over and over again.This pattern can be used by a shopaholic to fill an emotional need or override a negative emotion.

2. Experiencing Post-Shopping Regret

Unfortunately, the high shopaholics experience is typically short-lived and later gets replaced by negative feelings, including shame, remorse, and guilt.

Shopaholics will often feel guilty after spending money, whether they splurged on something expensive or snagged something on clearance. Despite any remorse that follows, though, they tend to be good at rationalizing any purchase if they’re challenged.

Buyer’s remorse can force a shopaholic back into a negative cycle, since they know shopping is a surefire way to chase away negative feelings, at least temporarily.

Recommended: 7 Strategies to Stop Spending Money

3. Accumulating Unopened Goods

Though shopaholics enjoy shopping, they often don’t care all that much about their purchases when they get home or when their online orders arrive in the mail. In fact, the items they purchase often end up unopened and shoved in the closet or under the bed.

Those living with a shopping addiction can actually develop hoarding tendencies as they accumulate more goods than they need and yet continue buying.

4. Concealing Shopping Habits

Shopaholics will often try to conceal their shopping habits from their spouses, family members, coworkers, and friends. This is often due to feelings of shame and/or the fact that they are shopping and spending money at the expense of their job or loved ones.

Normal Shopping vs Compulsive Shopping

If you enjoy shopping and make the occasional splurge, does that mean you are a shopaholic? Not necessarily. There are several distinct differences between normal shopping and compulsive shopping. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of normal shopping versus compulsive shopping.

Normal Shopping

Compulsive Shopping

No addictive or compulsive componentResembles addictive behavior
Purchases are needed and usedPurchases are often not needed and go unused
Typically isn’t followed by negative emotionsOften followed by guilt, remorse, and shame
Does not lead to financial problemsContinues despite negative financial consequences
No secrecy involvedSecrecy is often involved
Occasional splurgesFrequent overbuying

Treating Compulsive Shopping

If you feel you have a shopping problem, don’t despair. It’s never too late to address the issue and regain control of your spending. Here are some strategies to try.

Understanding Your Triggers

Consider keeping a journal of how you feel when the shopping urge hits: Are you bored? Angry? Anxious? Do you feel the desire to buy new things after you spend time with a certain person, spend time on social media, or watch certain shows on TV?

Tracking your triggers can provide insight into what drives you to want to shop and how you can better manage (or avoid) those triggers in the future.

Recommended: Getting Back on Track After Going Over Budget

Developing Other Coping Strategies

Overcoming any addiction typically requires learning alternative ways of handling the stress of everyday life. You might come up with a list of non-shopping activities you find relaxing and enjoyable, such as calling a friend, watching a movie, reading, going for a walk, listening to music, or engaging in a hobby. You can consult your list when you get the overwhelming urge to shop. This can help you break the cycle of using shopping as a way of trying to feel better about yourself.

Recommended: How to Track Your Monthly Expenses: Step-by-Step Guide

Delaying Gratification

Another way to deal with impulsive or compulsive shopping is to establish a waiting time before you make any purchases. If you see an item you want to buy, put the purchase on pause for a week (a 30-day pause is even better). Tell yourself that If, at the end of the waiting period, you still want the item, and can afford it, then you can go ahead and buy it. You may find, however, that by delaying the purchase, you lose interest in the item and opt not to buy it after all.

Seeking Expert Help

If you think you may be addicted to shopping and can’t seem to get a handle on it on your own, it can be worth seeking professional help.

A mental health professional may be able to help you understand the emotional roots of your compulsive shopping and offer strategies to help you overcome the problem. In some cases, medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help alleviate underlying mental health problems that could be contributing to a shopping addiction.

You might also benefit from financial counseling, particularly if your shopping behavior has left you in debt. A financial advisor can help you set up a spending budget that allows you to pay off expensive debt, while also building — or rebuilding — your savings.

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What are the signs of being a shopaholic?

Signs that your shopping habit has crossed the line into an addictive behavior include:

•   You shop primarily to feel happy or to relieve stress.

•   You often buy things you don’t need or can’t afford.

•   You’re always thinking about things you plan to purchase.

•   You often obsess or stress over shopping for a specific item.

•   You often feel regret or guilt about things you’ve purchased.

•   You have a closet full of unopened or unused items from previous shopping sprees.

•   You hide your shopping habits from others.

•   Your financial situation is suffering because of your shopping.

What is the root cause of shopping addiction?

Negative feelings, such as stress, anxiety and loneliness, are often the underlying causes of shopping addiction. Shopping can provide a distraction from these unpleasant emotions and help you feel more in control. It can also elicit a kind of psychological “high,” which is why compulsive shoppers often seek this behavior out again and again.

How do you cure a shopping addiction?

People who are addicted to shopping often respond well to various treatments, including:

•   Antidepressant medications

•   Talk therapy

•   Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

•   Self-help books

•   Support groups

•   Financial counseling

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