How do I know if I am addicted to shopping, and how to treat it?


In this article, we will look at what compulsive buying addiction means, what the symptoms and consequences of this addiction are and how to treat them.

Table of contents

I. What is compulsive shopping addiction?

Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive shopping, is characterized by the loss of control and dependence when buying.

People addicted to shopping spend more and more money and spend also more time in shopping.

Generally, they exceed their economic possibilities, which leads to debt and the impossibility of dealing with other expenses. 

These people can develop a withdrawal syndrome characterized by a state of:

  • nervousness,
  • restlessness,
  • and irritability that can only calm by buying.

People with shopping addiction feel persistent, assailant and repetitive shopping motivations, which are usually perceived as irresistible, pleasant and/or uncomfortable, but which have important negative consequences on the individual and/or the people around them.

The bonus is determined by the process or act of purchase itself (excitement to pay with the credit card, to be attended by dependents, to carry the bags or to receive orders at home ...) regardless of the usefulness or need of the products.

What's more, there may be a loss of interest and appreciation for the products already purchased that are stored without giving time to be used and are hidden so that the family does not realize the problem.

compulsive shopping

II. What are the symptoms of compulsive shopping addiction?

The different symptoms of compulsive buying that I could identify are the following:

  • Constant desire to buy more, even when it puts work or the family economy at risk.
  • Excessive excitement during or before the purchase.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Low self-esteem or anxiety.
  • Hide the addiction.
  • Family problems arising from addiction.
  • Psychological tolerance.

III. What are the causes of compulsive shopping addiction?

The causes are very varied, including both internal psychological states such as boredom or discontent, as well as external reasons such as advertising.

Among the different factors that make people more vulnerable to shopping addiction, the following stand out:


  • Low self-esteem.
  • High discrepancy between the real self and the ideal self.
  • Materialistic value systems.
  • Relief of negative emotional states: (boredom, anxiety, depression, irritability, dissatisfaction...).
  • Stress.
  • Monotony and boredom.
  • Rivalry and comparison with the people around you.
  • Little or not at all satisfactory lifestyles such as unrewarding jobs, lack of affection for relationships with trusted people.
  • Eating problems, mainly bulimia and binge-eating disorder.
  • People who consider shopping to be a lifestyle.
  • Distortion in its autonomy capacity.
  • Attraction to consumption stimuli such as spending time in large areas, seeing shop windows, etc. Although these activities are not properly consumed, they do encourage and encourage shopping.
  • Abuse of benzodiazepines, alcohol and stimulants.
  • Other disorders due to lack of impulse control, such as pathological gambling and sex addiction.
  • Biological factors related to the regulation of the serotonin, noradrenergic, dopaminergic systems and brain reward system.


  • Families that give great importance to money and material symbols (expensive cars, branded clothing...).
  • Lack of family emphasis on savings and spending planning.
  • Families with excessive or pathological consumption patterns.
  • Families that base education on immediate gratification and gifts.
  • Very strict guidelines of discipline
  • Family history of alcoholism.
  • As revenge on the spouse or family members


  • Great offer and availability of items.
  • Easy accessibility to shops, department stores...
  • Possibility to buy online at any time and from anywhere.
  • Easy payment: being able to pay with cards and the possibility of obtaining credits.
  • Possibility of returning products.
  • Messages from the advertising media
  • Acceptance and permissiveness in the Consumer Society.
  • Materialistic values that promote personal and social prestige with the purchase of certain items

IV. What are the consequences of compulsive shopping addiction?

consequences of compulsive bying addiction

There are different consequences for this addiction, among which we can mention:

  • Restlessness, irritability, anxiety if you can't buy it.
  • Lies and inventions so that those close to them do not really know the money and time spent on shopping.
  • Problems with family members and problems with the couple.
  • Problems concentrating at work or studies due to shopping or keeping your mind busy when shopping.
  • Indebtedness and loans without the knowledge of the family.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame. Repentance and self-proclaiming
  • Use family and friends to get money with the power to continue shopping.
  • Late payment to deal with payments of any kind.
  • Abandonment of other activities that previously did bring satisfaction.
  • Decrease in social contacts.

V. What is the possible treatment?

Some health professionals advise you that if you think you suffer from this disorder, seek professional help as soon as possible to :

  • Taking impulse control.
  • Proper management of emotions.
  • The search for alternative activities.
  • Proper handling of money.
  • The search for satisfactory goals.

VI. How to prevent addiction to compulsive shopping?

  • Promoting healthy and well-being activities.
  • Avoid spending weekends continuously alone or with the family in shopping centers or surfaces.
  • Restrict social contacts with people in our environment who shop disproportionately.
  • Make a list of what we want to buy and what is really necessary, both in commercial establishments and on digital platforms.
  • Pay in cash and avoid using credit or debit cards.
  • Avoid personal lines of credit and loyalty promotions in stores to restrict advertising with offers.
  • Learn how to manage impulses and anxiety.
  • Encourage self-esteem.
  • Consider treatment when there is a problem and go to a professional.
  • Control the time we spend consulting catalogs, magazines and comments that encourage consumption or online sales pages.

People addicted to compulsive shopping answer some of the following questions in the affirmative

  • Do you have the urgent and irrepressible need to buy, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for you to stop buying?
  • Do you feel excited about the expectation of buying?
  • Do you buy beyond your means and can't control your expenses?
  • Has shopping become the only fun available?
  • Do you buy products that you don't need and, sometimes, you don't even use everything you buy, accumulating more and more clothes, objects... that you get to hide so that others don't know what you spend?
  • Do you feel sorry or guilty about spending money on the items you bought?
  • Do you use purchases to feel better and escape negative emotional states (depression, frustration, etc.)?
  • Do you continue shopping despite the economic problems and indebtedness due to the amounts you spend on shopping and hide, or do you lie to your family about the money you spend and what you buy?
  • Do you continue shopping despite the family, economic problems... to buy?
  • Do you ask for loans or ask for money from family and acquaintances to reach the end of the month because you are spending the money to cover basic needs, on superfluous things, or do you ever ask for trust in stores?
  • Have you entered the dynamics of "returning" and buying again?
  • Do you buy cheap, so you don't feel guilty?
  • Do you buy for other things that you don't need or want?

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.