Compulsive Shopping Disorder

10 Dec 2019

Shopping is a part of most cultures, but can it be a problem? When does "shopaholic" become a mental health issue?

This week we discuss Compulsive Shopping Disorder - when shopping becomes a seriously life-affecting exercise.

Show Notes:

What is it?

Compulsive buying (shopping) disorder (CBD) or oniomania refers to an ongoing and often insatiable urge to buy things, typically resulting in adverse consequences

It is characterised by an excessive desire for acquisition and by inability to control the purchase of new objects, despite awareness of the inappropriateness of the behaviour. (Behavioural Addictions 2014)

Some common characteristics of compulsive shopping disorder may include (Very Well Mind):

high impulsivity

low self-esteem

preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items

spending a great deal of time doing research on items and shopping for unneeded items

vulnerability to negative emotions and to cultural influence

buying behaviour is experienced as a relief from negative emotions

experiencing financial difficulties because of uncontrolled shopping

problems at work, school or home because of uncontrolled shopping

hiding expenses from family members and friends

Is this the same as being a shop-a-holic?

Many people love shopping and get a buzz or a dopamine high from purchasing something new. Plenty of people have a tendency to spend a bit too much occasionally when they’re on a ‘spree’ but this does not mean they suffer from compulsive shopping/ buying disorder.

When do you know you might have a problem:

when you feel you’ve lost control of your shopping behaviour

when you are spending more than you can afford

when you have ongoing feelings of anxiety and or guilt about your shopping behaviour

when you shop for the ‘wrong reasons’ or as a reaction to a feeling

when you start to negatively affect your relationships due to spending or shopping too much

when the consequences of your shopping behaviour are starting to have an ongoing negative impact on your life - lost time/ finances/ reputation/ respect/ focus

What to do next?

According to Donald Black from the University of Iowa, nearly two-thirds of all shopaholics struggle with depression or anxiety. In order to effectively treat your shopping addiction, you may also need to deal with your other mental health issues. Ideally, when searching for a recovery program, you should try to find a recovery program that can address both aspects of your addiction.


Psychs- CBT - exposure therapy- NLP

Spenders/ Shoppers anonymous - support groups & online communities

Reference links