Shopping addiction

While most of us enjoy an impulse purchase now and again, shopping addictions can have negative effects on the person suffering and their loved ones. You may run into debt and even find that your mental health and your relationships are suffering. Fortunately, help is at hand, and Linwood House can help you manage and overcome your shopping addiction.

Shopping addiction - shopping trolley

What is a shopping addiction?

Shopping addiction is when you shop compulsively, losing control over your shopping habits despite any negative consequences. You may feel that you are ruled by your compulsion to shop and spend. Shopping addictions develop gradually. You can start by shopping due to everyday needs, which can turn into problematic shopping and addiction.

When some people shop, they experience a surge of chemicals, including endorphins and dopamine, that activate reward and motivation pathways in their brains. They may even experience a kind of high. If this happens to you, you may try to search for that high again by shopping more. With time you will need to shop more or spend more money to get the same effect as tolerance builds. Once you have lost control over your shopping, this is a sign that you have developed a shopping addiction.

Signs of shopping addiction

It can be difficult to spot signs of a shopping addiction as shopping is something everyone does, and people with addictions will generally try to hide it. Unlike substance addictions, there are no clear physical signs of a shopping addiction. However, there are plenty of emotional and behavioural signs.

At first, the effects may be positive; you may find that you get a euphoric feeling when you shop. However, with time, it becomes mixed with negative feelings. The following signs are things you may notice in yourself or in a loved one.

Emotional signs

  • Shopping when angry, sad, or depressed
  • Shopping to feel less guilty about a previous shopping spree
  • Irritability or stress-related problems

Shopping addiction - angry fist

Behavioural Signs

  • Hiding credit card bills, receipts, or shopping bags
  • Secretiveness – lying about shopping or the extent of how much was bought
  • Spending more money than you have
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Decreasing performance at school or work
  • Neglecting responsibilities in favour of shopping
  • Denying the problem or the extent of it
  • Stealing items or stealing money in order to shop more

Other signs of shopping addiction include financial problems and the building of tolerance. The more you shop, the more you need to, either in terms of frequency or spending.

Do I have a shopping addiction?

Recognising that you have a shopping addiction is a big step towards recovery. If you have read this far, you likely suspect you or a loved one has a shopping addiction. It requires bravery to acknowledge this and to look into whether your suspicions are true.

If you are questioning whether you have a shopping addiction, here are a few questions you can ask yourself that might give you an idea:

  • Do I spend a lot of time shopping or scrolling through shopping sites?
  • Do I spend more than I can afford?
  • Do I frequently buy more than I need?
  • Do I return items due to guilt?
  • Do I lie to loved ones about my shopping?
  • Have loved ones expressed concern about my shopping?
  • Do I shop to deal with emotional struggles, such as when I am sad or angry?
  • Do I feel euphoric or anxious when I shop?
  • Do I feel guilty or anxious about my shopping?
  • Do I frequently buy things I do not use or wear?
  • Do I experience psychological withdrawal symptoms when I cut down or stop shopping? This could include irritability, restlessness, and even physical shakes for some
  • Do I put off paying bills or rent so I can shop more?
  • Have I tried to cut down or stop and not been successful?

How to help a loved one

If you have a loved one who has a shopping addiction, you may be frustrated and upset by their behaviour and how it affects them and those around them while at the same time wanting to help. This is perfectly normal and shows that you care. Here are some ways you can help a loved one with a shopping addiction.

Shopping addiction - caring hands

  • Try to remain calm and non-judgemental and listen actively to what they say and their struggles.
  • Try not to use terms such as shopaholic. This trivialises the addiction and makes it seem that it is their fault they have developed it.
  • Suggest alternative activities to shopping that you can do together, such as walking, swimming or playing board games.
  • Set clear boundaries, so your loved one’s shopping addiction does not take over your life.
  • Speak with friends and family about what you are going through so they can support you.
  • Avoid enabling behaviour like making excuses or paying off shopping debts.

Shopping addiction treatment at Linwood House

Our shopping addiction treatment programme includes many proven methods, such as talking therapy and the 12-step programme. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help you identify unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviours and replace them with new and healthy habits. It can also help you identify triggers and work out how to manage them. You may need to avoid people, places, or things that trigger you, or you may need to work on reducing their impact on you if you cannot avoid them.

Identifying the deeper psychological problems at play in your shopping addiction is important. Once you have stopped shopping, you will find that any underlying reasons for shopping will appear as you are no longer masking them with your shopping. You will need to acknowledge these problems and work out how they influence your shopping habits.

Other aspects of our treatment programme include:

  • Debtors Anonymous support groups
  • Credit counselling
  • Holistic therapy
  • Group Therapy

Contact us

At Linwood House, we can help you overcome your shopping addiction. We believe it is important for you to be empowered in your choices and the changes you want to make to achieve your goals. Our treatment programmes give you the space and skills you need to succeed.

If you are struggling to control your shopping by yourself, you can join our inpatient programme to help you deal with your shopping addiction and achieve long-lasting recovery once you leave us. Whatever your needs, we are here to help. If you are ready to get treatment or you want more information, we would be very happy to speak with you about your options at Linwood House.

Frequently asked questions

Is Shopping Addiction a Mental Illness?
Shopping addiction is a behavioural addiction that is also known as compulsive buying disorder or oniomania. While it is not currently recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), many people believe that behavioural addictions are just as dangerous as substance use addictions. Gambling addiction has now been recognised in the DSM-5, so it is possible that we will see shopping addiction recognised one day.
What Is the Root Cause of Shopping Addiction?
There is no one clear root cause of shopping addiction. Anyone can become addicted to shopping, but there are factors that increase your chances of it. These include mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Character traits like perfectionism and low self-esteem may also play a part, as can a history of abuse or trauma.
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UK Addiction Treatment Group.

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