Is Shopaholism Similar To Substance Addiction?

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According to a study, nearly 5.8% of the American population suffers from Shopaholism. This condition is medically called Compulsive Buying Disorder.

Shopaholism refers to extreme shopping or buying behavior. A shopaholic, like alcohol, can’t control their desire to shop.

A successful shopping spree will make the shopaholic extremely happy. This is then followed by extreme guilt and remorse.

Compulsive Buying Disorder or CBD was recognized as a disease in the early 20th century. It started gaining traction in the early 1900s.

Shopaholism is an addictive behavior and requires proper intervention and treatment. 

What Goes on in the Mind of a Shopaholic?

Some people turn shopaholics simply to experience the adrenaline rush. Others do this to cope with their mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, or loneliness.

In all cases, the basic mechanism is the same. These shopping-addicts crave the “high” that the shopping experience that shopping gives them.

To cope with this guilt, they get into another shopping spree.

This cycle is never-ending and puts the addict into financial difficulties. It also dents their relationship with families and friends.

Never-ending shopping leads shopaholics into bad debt, putting them into a downward spiral of cyclic buying behavior.

In most cases, these addicts know that they are doing something wrong. They tend to hide their shopping and expenses from friends and families. This leads to lying, further denting social and family relationships.

How Do I Know if My Love for Shopping Is Normal or an Addiction?

Most of us love shopping. It is a happy and fun experience. But why does shopping give us happiness?

A shopping experience releases hormones called dopamine and endorphin, also called Happy Hormones. These hormones are released when you do something new or exciting, and they create a feel-good factor.

A successful shopping experience releases higher quantities of these hormones. The hormones activate your brain’s pleasure and reward centers, giving you a “high” or extreme pleasure.

This is the reason many of us prefer to go window shopping or buying sprees when feeling low or lonely.

A shopping addict gets used to this high. They repeat the shopping process to experience the high over and over again.

Regular shopping binges are few and far in between. Most of the shopping lovers exhibit impulsive buying behavior. In other words, they do not plan their shopping experiences ahead of time.

A compulsive buyer, on the other hand, will plan their shopping ahead of time. They do this to deal with unpleasant feelings such as anxiety and depression. Shopaholics crave the high that a shopping experience gives them.

They do not have control over their buying behavior, despite knowing that it is not good for them.

Characteristics of a person suffering from Compulsive Buying Disorder include:

  • An obsession to buy, irrespective of whether the items are useful or unnecessary.
  • Wasting a lot of time researching what to buy next, and planning the next shopping spree.
  • Inability to control the urge to shop in spite of knowing that the purchase is not needed, or that the credit cards are maxed out.
  • Suffering from guilt and depression once the purchase is complete.
  • Hiding purchases and expenses from family, and lying to cover for the money spent.

How to treat Compulsive Buying Disorder?

Treating a person suffering from Compulsive Buying Disorder can be quite difficult. You can’t simply force someone to stop going out to buy or cut off their sources of finance.

For many, shopping addiction is a coping mechanism to deal with underlying issues.

You need to take a multi-pronged approach when dealing with a shopping addict. The different treatment options include:

  1. Drug detoxification (more info)
  2. Behavioral therapies.
  3. Rehabilitation.
  4. Addiction recovery groups.

1. Drug Detoxification

In extreme cases of Compulsive Buying Disorders, doctors suggest medications as a first step to deal with the addiction behavior.

Similar to substance addiction, shopping addiction treatment will have withdrawal symptoms. Medications help you deal with these symptoms. They are not the ultimate cure, but the first step or one of the steps in helping you deal with the addiction.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotic medications are prescribed depending on medical history. This therapy method is especially used if you have underlying conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders.

2. Behavioral Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a popular and preferred behavior modification treatment for shopping addictions. This method doesn’t involve medications. Instead, you will have regular sessions with your therapist who will help you modify your addictive behaviors

CBT is a long-drawn process and you will attend many sessions before you start to experience changes. This method is non-invasive and has shown positive results, one of the reasons why this method is highly preferred.

3. Rehabilitation

Many rehabilitation centers around the US work with patients addicted to shopping. You can opt for two kinds of rehabilitation programs depending on the severity of the addiction.

You can choose to get admitted as an in-patient and get admitted to the facility. Alternately, you can opt to stay as an out-patient and undergo treatment.

In both cases, the staff and doctors will work with you to bring an overall change in your behavior pattern and help you deal with and get rid of your shopping addiction.

4. Addiction Recovery Groups

Recovery groups are a popular way to deal with addictive shopping behaviors. These groups will have like-minded people who are dealing with similar issues. when you meet people going through the same situations as you, you will feel better. A lending ear and a helping hand will go a long way in the therapy.

The US has many 12-steps programs and recovery groups. You can find a popular group in your area and kick start the therapy process.


Compulsive Shopping Disorder, though socially acceptable, plays havoc with those suffering from the addiction. Empathy, early intervention, and proper treatment steps go a long way in dealing with patients and helping them in the recovery process.

Is Shopaholism Similar To Substance Addiction

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