What is 'Compulsive Shopping'

Compulsive shopping is an unhealthy obsession with shopping that interferes with the daily life of the afflicted. This ailment goes beyond mere consumerism and is psychological. Symptoms include obsession with shopping, anxiety when not shopping, the constant need to shop and the purchase of unnecessary or even unwanted items. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Compulsive Shopping'

​​​​​​​Compulsive shopping is an addiction that triggers pleasure receptors in the brain, much like drugs. The addiction escalates because the guilt over shopping leads to more depression, which prompts more buying. As with any other addiction, it can lead to professional, marital and family problems. Although there is some debate about whether this condition is indeed a mental disorder, compulsive shopping is listed as an “impulse control disorder” by the World Health Organization in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). It is not the same as retail therapy, the occasional shopping binge in which many people indulge.

Diagnosing Compulsive Shopping

Compulsive shoppers typically are insecure people with low self-esteem and low impulse control. Not surprisingly, people with mood, anxiety and eating disorders the condition is often exhibit symptoms. Much as bulimics will purge meals after overeating, compulsive shoppers are known to throw away their purchases. Some research shows attention a link between deficit disorders and compulsive shopping.

Studies suggest about 5.8 percent of Americans are compulsive shoppers for at least some period in their lives. It’s more common among women, and it typically starts in the late teens and early twenties. The affliction does not always lead to spending beyond one’s means but can involve simply obsessing about shopping. Someone who continuously window shops or browses internet shopping sites, even without buying, is considered compulsive. Often it is the thrill of the hunt, more than the actual purchase, which brings pleasure. As such, a subset of compulsive shopping involves obsessive attention to online auctions, even for goods that are not wanted or needed.

Compulsive shopping is often considered a modern affliction with today’s consumerist pressures such as ubiquitous advertising and the easy availability of credit cards. In fact, an unhealthy obsession with purchasing goods is not new. In the nineteenth century First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, who also suffered from depression, was known to be a compulsive shopper who ran up President Lincoln’s credit line.

Treatment for Compulsive Shopping

Experts say awareness of the problem is the first step in healing. To that end, research indicates that ten weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in reducing episodes of compulsive shopping. Support groups like Debtors Anonymous may also help. Medications can help, such as anti-depressants in the family of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as well as opioid antagonists like naltrexone.

  1. Prop Shop

    A prop shop is a trading firm that deploys its own capital in ...
  2. Bucket Shop

    Bucket shop can be used in multiple contexts to refer to a less ...
  3. Opinion Shopping

    Opinion shopping is the practice of searching for an outside ...
  4. Planned Urban Development - PUD

    A type of community zoning classification that is planned and ...
  5. Blackberry Addiction

    Blackberry addiction described an over-reliance on the Blackberry ...
  6. Cyber Monday

    The Monday following U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, representing ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Amazon Adds International Shopping Feature

    The online retailer has launched an international shopping feature for its overseas customers.
  2. Investing

    The Downward Spiral of Trading Addiction

    Trading in the financial markets can spark feelings that can lead to trading addiction.
  3. Personal Finance

    5 Pitfalls Of Online Shopping

    There are definitely some advantages to shopping online. But are they enough to overlook these downfalls?
  4. Personal Finance

    Big Box Stores Vs. Small Retailers

    We list five factors for you to consider when choosing between a big-box or smaller retailer.
  5. Personal Finance

    Conduct A Financial Intervention

    Find out what you can do to help someone who is finanically out of control.
  6. Investing

    The Economics of Owning a Coffee Shop

    Understand the economics of owning and running a coffee shop. Learn the basics of taking into account fixed, variable, and initial costs.
  7. Personal Finance

    Top 5 Biggest Mobile E-retailers

    Online shopping has never been easier, thanks to the proliferation of mobile shopping apps.
  8. Insights

    3 Ways Holiday Shopping Is Changing

    Americans are shopping online, even when they are in stores.
  9. Personal Finance

    Is Online Shopping Killing Brick-And-Mortar?

    Online shopping has increased by 20%, much to the detriment of several large retailers; the question is, will there be more casualties?
  10. Personal Finance

    7 Tips For Avoiding Shipping Costs When Shopping Online

    Before clicking on that purchase, make sure you're getting the best deal possible.
Trading Center