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December 2015

Could You Be Addicted to Shopping?

Shopping may seem like a harmless activity. Perhaps the only downfall: your empty wallet. But for some people, shopping can turn into an addiction. They may find it especially hard to resist with the holiday urge to splurge. A recent study looked closer at compulsive buying, including its symptoms.

Four women walking on street with shopping bags

An addictive behavior

The word “addiction” may make you think only of drugs or alcohol. But mental health experts also recognize addictions that aren’t linked to a substance. These are behavioral addictions. Some examples are gambling, internet gaming, and compulsive buying.

Compulsive buying is sometimes called oniomania. It can cause people to lose control of their spending habits. Those hooked on shopping often do so without thinking or caring about the financial or personal costs. They may feel compelled to shop. They may shop to ease anxiety or depression. They often feel ashamed or guilty after their purchases.

About 1 out of every 20 people in the U.S. may be a shopaholic. Some research suggests it may affect more women than men. But women may simply be more likely to seek help. Female shopaholics tend to favor clothes and shoes while men may stock up on electronics, tools, and gadgets.

Signs of shopping addiction

Compulsive buying can be hard to diagnose. The ease and privacy of online shopping may mask the problem even more. In a recent study, researchers set out to create a scale to better spot this addiction. They asked more than 23,500 people to respond to a series of statements. These statements mimicked many of those used to help diagnose problem gambling. The researchers also asked participants about their personality and buying habits.

Based on responses, the researchers were able to better define the 7 signs of compulsive buying. You may suffer from this addiction if you agree with 4 or more of these statements:

  • You think about shopping or buying all the time.

  • You buy things to change your mood.

  • Your shopping interferes with your daily responsibilities, such as school or work.

  • You feel like you need to buy more and more to feel satisfied.

  • You try to stop or buy less but you can’t.

  • You feel bad if you can’t shop.

  • You have shopped so much it has hurt your well-being.

The researchers also found that compulsive buyers may be more likely to have other mental health problems. People with depression or anxiety seem more prone to the addiction. So, too, may be those who abuse drugs or struggle with eating disorders.

If you think you or a loved one may be a shopaholic, help is available. More research is needed to decide on the best care. But some studies have shown that medicine for depression may ease the addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy may work, too. It can teach you how to cope with the urge to shop and how to change your behavior.


Your mental health matters. Here is advice on where to turn for shopping addiction or another mental health problem.


Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/16/2015
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