top of page


Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction also known as shopaholic according to Black DW (2007) relates to individuals who shop compulsively and who may feel like they have no control over their behaviour. Some individuals develop shopping addictions because they essentially get addicted to how their brain feels while shopping. Shopping addiction is a behavioural addiction that involves compulsive buying as a way to feel good and avoid negative feelings, such as anxiety and depression (Black DW 2007). Like other behavioural addictions, shopping addiction can take over as a preoccupation that leads to problems in other areas of your life. As they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive it is further estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the population may be predisposed to these feelings. It is important to note that going a shopping spree once in a while does not mean you are a shopping addict. However, there are several signs and symptoms listed below that shopping addicts display that you may want to look for (Black, D.2007).

According to Shopaholics Anonymous as stated by Black D.W. (2007) in his book "A review of compulsive buying disorder". World Psychiatry. , 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

How is Shopping Addiction like other addictions?

There are several characteristics that shopping addiction shares with other addictions (American Addiction Centers 2020). As with other addictions, people who over-shop become preoccupied with spending and devote significant time and money to the activity. Actual spending is important to the process of shopping addiction; window shopping does not constitute an addiction, and the addictive pattern is actually driven by the process of spending money (American Addiction Centers 2020).

As with other addictions, shopping addiction is highly ritualized and follows a typically addictive pattern of thoughts about shopping, planning shopping trips, and the shopping act itself, often described as pleasurable, ecstatic even, and as providing relief from negative feelings, Koran, LM, Faber, RJ, Aboujaoude, E, Large, MD, Serpe, RT (2006) . Finally, the shopper crashes, with feelings of disappointment, particularly with him/herself (American Addiction Centers 2020).

Compulsive shoppers use shopping as a way of escaping negative feelings, such as depression, anxiety, boredom, and anger, as well as self-critical thoughts Koran (2006). Unfortunately, the escape is short-lived.​

Items purchased during a compulsive shopping spree are often simply hoarded unused and compulsive shoppers then begin to plan the next spending spree. Most shop alone, although some shop with others who enjoy it thoughts (Koran 2006). Generally, it will lead to embarrassment to shop with people who don’t share this type of enthusiasm for shopping.

Signs and Symptoms

People who shop compulsively experience shopping differently from people who do not have this problem.

Here are some signs to watch out for (American Addiction Centers 2020):

> The act of shopping causes feelings of euphoria, or a “high.”
> The urge to buy is overwhelming, and must be gratified instantly.
> Items bought during shopping sprees are often unnecessary.
> Shopaholics often go shopping with the intention to buy only a few items and end up buying much more than they intended.
> Purchased items may be hidden from family and friends out of guilt.
> Shopaholics are often in debt, have maxed out credit cards and are in generally bad financial straits due to spending beyond their means.

Emotional Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

Like all addicts, shopping addicts may try to hide their addiction, and if a loved one is addicted to shopping, they may try to hide it from you. If you hide credit card bills, shopping bags or receipts, you may be a shopaholic (American Addiction Centers 2020). 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 (American Addiction Centers 2020).

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

Methods of Use

Adverse Effects

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

As stated by Zhang, C, Brook, JS, Leukefeld, CG, Brook, DW (2016) 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 (Zhang et. al 2016).

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 (Zhang et. al 2016). 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 (Zhang et. al 2016). 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 (Zhang et. al 2016).

Overdose Potential



> Self-help organizations – Talking with others who also have a disorder have been proven to be very effective.
> Therapy – Behaviour therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy is a proven evidence based therapy teaching skills to reduce the urges. Find a licensed practitioner.
> Medications – Studies suggest that some medication may be effective for the treatment of gambling addiction. Speak to a psychiatrist specialised in addiction treatment for an evaluation and recommendations.
> Treatment programs – Many in-treatment and outpatient programs can assist with a gambling disorder.

Why choose PRC Recovery?

We are a registered treatment centre specialising in the treatment of addictive disorders. Our individualised approach to treating addiction is based on international standards and includes the many proven modalities in the treatment of addiction.

​Key focus areas for an effective program:

> Family involvement – family participation in the treatment of any addiction is vital.
> Individualised approach – underlying issues prolonging any addiction is based on the individual and therefore individual treatment plans are an important component to effective treatment of addiction by a qualified professional counsellor.
> 12 step program – Twelve step programs have proven highly effective in the treatment of addiction and starts forming the solid foundation in early recovery. It is also used as the platform to the introduction of self-help organisations, forming part of the aftercare.
> Aftercare – Stopping the addiction is only the foundation phase in the treatment of addiction. A well thought-out aftercare plan is crucial to sustain long-term recovery.


bottom of page