Action on Addiction //  Information on Shopping Addiction

About shopping addiction

A shopping addict is someone who shops compulsively and who may feel like they have no control over their behaviour.

Are There Different Types of Shopping or Spending Addictions?

According to Shopaholics Anonymous, there are several different types of shopaholics, and they are as follows:
- Compulsive shopaholics who shop when they are feeling emotional distress
- Trophy shopaholics who are always shopping for the perfect item
- Shopaholics who want the image of being a big spender and love flashy items
- Bargain seekers who purchase items they don’t need because they are on sale
- Bulimic shoppers who get caught in a vicious cycle of buying and returning
- Collectors who don’t feel complete unless they have one item in each colour or every piece of a set

What causes shopping addiction?

According to Ruth Engs a professor in applied health sciences from Indiana University, some people develop shopping addictions because they essentially get addicted to how the brain feels while shopping. As they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive.

What are the signs of a shopaholic?

In some cases, it may be difficult to tell if you are, or a loved one is, a shopaholic. Many people adore shopping, and many people also spend too much money while engaging in this activity. It is important to note that going on a shopping spree once in a while does not mean you are a shopping addict. However, there are several signs and symptoms shopping addicts might display.

Emotional Symptoms of a Shopping Addiction

Like most addicts, shopping addicts may try to hide their addiction, and if a loved one is addicted to shopping, they may try to hide it from you. If you hide credit card bills, shopping bags or receipts, you may be a shopaholic. In some cases, shopaholics may try to hide their addiction by lying about just one element of it. For instance, a person may admit they went shopping, but they may lie about how much they spent.

Some of the other emotional symptoms you may notice from a shopaholic include the following:

- Spending more than one can afford
- Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry and depressed
- Shopping as a way to feel less guilty about a previous shopping spree
- Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
- Losing control of the shopping behaviour

Physical Symptoms of a Shopping Addiction

Although most addictions have physical symptoms related to them, shopping addictions may not. In most cases, the symptoms you experience due to your shopping addiction will be emotional in nature. The physical evidence of a shopping addiction may include declining financial circumstances.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of a Shopping Addiction

The short-term effects of a shopping addiction may feel positive. In many cases, you may feel happy after completing a shopping trip. However, these feelings are often mixed with anxiety or guilt, and in most cases, the guilt or anxiety may propel you into even more shopping.

The long-term effects of a shopping addiction can vary in intensity and scope. Many shopping addicts face financial problems, and they may become overwhelmed with debt. In some cases, they may simply max out their credit card, but in other cases, they may take out a second mortgage on their home or charge purchases to their business credit card. If you are addicted to shopping, your personal relationships may also suffer. You may end up getting a divorce or distancing yourself from your parents, children or other loved ones.


If you are trying to establish whether or not you are a shopaholic, Shopaholics Anonymous suggests that you ask yourself the following questions. If you answer ‘yes’ to many of these questions, you may have an addiction. The questions are:

- Do you shop when you feel angry or disappointed?
- Has overspending created problems in your life?
- Do you have conflicts with loved ones about your need to shop?
- While shopping, do you feel euphoric rushes or anxiety?
- After shopping, do you feel you have just finished doing something wild or dangerous?
- After shopping, do you ever feel guilty or embarrassed about what you have done?
- Do you frequently buy things that you never end up using or wearing?
- Do you think about money almost all the time?

Action on Addiction

Action on Addiction brings help, hope and freedom to those living with addiction and those living with people who suffer problems of addiction. It is the UK’s only charity working across the addiction field in treatment, professional education to honours degree level, support for families and children, research, and campaigns. It is also the UK’s only specialist addiction treatment provider to achieve accreditation from the Healthcare Accreditation & Quality Unit of CHKS (Caspe Healthcare Knowledge Systems). Action on Addiction is a member of the Alcohol Health Alliance, the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals and the Charities Forum.

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Much of the above information is from and also informed by Shopaholics Anonymous.

Note: The above is simply guidance intended to offer some initial guidance. VeryFirstTo is not a medical site and does not employ medically qualified individuals. Those who consider that they may be suffering from any form of addiction should seek assistance from experts within the field. Action on Addiction is a helpful place to start: