Compulsive shopping is a form of process addiction in which someone feels compelled to shop. This type of process addiction is also known as compulsive spending, reflecting the fact that compulsive shopping results in the expenditure of large amounts of money. A variety of treatments can be used to address compulsive shopping, ranging from support groups to private therapy.
While it might seem laughable to be “addicted to shopping,” compulsive shopping is actually a serious problem. Compulsive shoppers are actually out of control, which means that they are unable to stop spending money. They may develop feelings of shame or guilt around shopping which cause them to conceal shopping expeditions, and they may also find themselves in serious financial trouble as a result of compulsive spending.
Some signs of compulsive shopping include regularly breaking a set budget, shopping to feel better, being unable to set a budget at all, hiding shopping expeditions, and running up extremely high balances on credit cards. A compulsive shopper may also enter a return cycle, in which shame develops around a purchase and the purchase is returned, but the shopper buys more items at the store. Compulsive shoppers also tend to purchase a wide range of items, some of which don't fit or seem extremely impractical.
A chronic compulsive shopper shops constantly to feel better, and as a pick me up, becoming addicted to the process of shopping and spending money. Others may become compulsive in response to holiday stress, failing relationships, or problems at work. While many of us have treated ourselves to something special in response to depression or unsettling events, there is a marked difference between setting a budget for a special treat and staying within that budget, and going on a spending spree which spirals out of control.
Treatment for compulsive shopping focuses on identifying the root causes of the problem, and trying to break the habit. People who predisposed to compulsive shopping are often encouraged to avoid owning credit cards, to set very specific budgets and shopping expectations, and to be very careful about casual shopping. For example, window shopping might be carried out when businesses are closed, or money could be left at home to avoid impulse buys. A compulsive shopper may also seek help from a support group, or ask friends and family to respect the situation and avoid triggering addictive behavior.