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Shopping addiction is real and here’s how you can avoid it

Shopping addiction is real and here’s how you can avoid it
Image source: Getty Images.


Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder (CBD), is often described as a compulsion to buy things to fight negative feelings such as boredom, loneliness or depression.  

Research shows that about 3% of European adults and up to 8% of young European adults might suffer from some level of shopping addiction. In other countries, like the US, that figure can reach up to 12%.

Causes of shopping addiction 

There’s no single trigger for shopping addiction. In fact, experts believe it often starts like any other addiction: as a way of coping with emotional pain, stress or anxiety.

Many people who suffer from shopping addiction often also suffer from other mood and personality disorders. Others might turn to shopping as a way of dealing with boredom or low self-esteem.

According to a study conducted at the Department of Psychology at North Dakota State University in America, people with CBD commonly experience feelings of euphoria or relief while shopping. This creates a cycle that feeds the addiction but also enhances it, as overspending can lead to stress and feelings of guilt.

Warning signs of a shopping addiction

Everybody splurges once in a while, so how do you distinguish between normal shopping habits and a potential addiction? People with CBD turn to shopping as their only way of dealing with stress. They choose spending money over meeting friends or having hobbies.

Other signs that you might have a problem include:

  • Shopping to the point that you go into debt
  • Hiding your purchases from your partner, friends and family and always shopping alone
  • Feelings of guilt, shame and regret after shopping
  • Buying things you never use or need and often just pushing them to the back of a wardrobe or drawer and forgetting they exist

Controlling your spending habits

If you have a shopping addiction, there are habits you can cultivate to help you control your spending. 

  • Make a list of other ways you can spend your free time. If you usually turn to shopping when you’re bored, down or lonely, you need to think of alternative ways to feel better and keep busy.
  • Take somebody with you when you go shopping. People with a shopping addiction often hide their purchases, so having somebody with you could help.
  • Set up a savings goal that means something to you. Setting money aside for something bigger could help you curb impulse spending.
  • If you’re only going out to buy something small (like a few items at the supermarket), take cash and leave your credit cards at home to avoid impulse buying.
  • Unsubscribe from retail newsletters and mailing lists so that you can’t be tempted by discount coupons and special offers.

How and where to get help

A therapist or counsellor can help you deal with your addiction. The UK Rehab network has clinics all over the country and offers online access to a counselling service for all kinds of addictions.

You can also contact your doctor for a referral. Treatment can range from group counselling to medication to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), depending on your particular needs.

If your shopping addiction has resulted in debt, getting financial counselling is also important. The StepChange Debt Charity specialises in free and confidential debt advice for all situations.

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