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Shopping Addiction Effects

In today’s society, compulsive spending has become a normalized behavior that often goes unnoticed. Unfortunately, this addiction can have severe consequences on one’s mental, psychological, and financial well-being. It is essential to be able to recognize the effects of this addiction to prevent any harm. Identifying the impact of compulsive spending proactively and taking action to address it can help individuals break free from this destructive cycle and regain control over their lives.

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What are the Effects of Shopping Addiction?

American society has normalized shopping addiction and the very serious consequences of shopping disorder. Unfortunately, this has caused many compulsive spenders to go unnoticed by friends and family members until the problem has become severe.

Spotting the signs of shopping addiction is essential to catching compulsive spending before the effects can cause serious damage to the addict’s mental, psychological, and financial well-being.

Shopping addiction, also called oniomania, tends to be trivialized in daily life.

Terms like “retail therapy” or “shopaholic” are often used casually, but compulsive buying issues can have a catastrophic effect when not properly treated.

Not only are there financial repercussions, but shopping addiction can destroy relationships, impact overall mental well-being, and lead to serious legal issues.

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Top 6 Effects of Shopping Addiction

1. Withdrawal Symptoms When Not Shopping

Although behavioral addictions like shopping addiction do not usually involve substance abuse, many addicts experience withdrawal symptoms when not spending money on shopping sprees.

Many shopping addicts experience a rush or “high” due to the release of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that compulsive spending can cause.

When the brain becomes reliant on the rush caused by problematic shopping behaviors, it struggles to function normally without the constant high.

Withdrawal symptoms occur when the brain becomes dependent on the flood of dopamine that compulsive spending causes.

Common symptoms of shopping addiction withdrawal include:

  • Feeling restless
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

2. Guilt and Shame Over Compulsive Shopping

Many people with shopping disorders experience intense shame and emotional distress over their compulsive buying behavior.

Even when shopping addicts want to stop their compulsive behavior, the urge to shop and the negative effects of withdrawal keep them stuck in a vicious cycle of addiction.

To make matters worse, some shopping addicts use shopping trips as a coping strategy for negative feelings. Addicts often find themselves guilty about their overspending but continue shopping to cope with those negative emotions.

3. Financial Problems and Bankruptcy

Compulsive shoppers can quickly find themselves over their heads with credit card debt to support impulse buying. Many online shopping sites offer financing options or payment options, allowing addicts to rack up debt faster than they can pay it down.

Over time, shopping addicts often drain their savings, lose their homes, and even empty retirement accounts to continue their shopping habits. It’s not uncommon for addicts to file for bankruptcy and lose many of their assets.

4. Damage to Relationships

Like with substance use disorders, shopping addiction can ruin relationships with loved ones. Some addicts will spend money intended for family living costs and even empty out their children’s college funds.

Lying about and hiding purchases is incredibly common with shopping addiction. The broken trust this dishonesty causes may inflict irreparable damage to relationships with coworkers, friends, and family members.

5. Legal Issues Due to Fraud and Shoplifting

In extreme cases of shopping addiction, some addicts may resort to illegal activities to get the same rush as shopping. Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes shopping addicts may participate in.

As people with an addiction blow through the last of their money, individuals may even resort to committing fraud or embezzlement for more money to shop with. Legal issues, of course, are incredibly expensive and only worsen the addict’s financial situation in the process.

6. Developing Hoarding Disorders

Hoarding disorder is a common co-occurring mental health condition found with shopping addiction. Shopping addicts sometimes buy things they don’t actually need to still experience the high from shopping.

The addict’s home can become cluttered with these items as unneeded purchases pile up. Because anxiety disorders are also common co-occurring issues, addicts may begin to fear throwing out these unneeded purchases and develop a hoarding disorder.

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Getting Treatment for Your Shopping Addiction

If you believe you or a loved one may have a shopping problem, now is the time to find addiction treatment before the effects cause serious damage to your life.

Ask your doctor what treatment options may be best for you, or you can try support groups like Debtors Anonymous, Shopping Addiction Support Group, or Shopaholics Anonymous.

If you don’t have a doctor, you can use SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or 1-877-726-4727 (HELP) to learn what addiction centers are in your area.

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FAQ's About the Effects of Shopping Addiction

Why is shopping addictive?

Buying new things for yourself can be very exciting, releasing “feel-good” chemicals in your brain. For some people predisposed to addiction, this pleasurable sensation can lead to addictive behaviors towards spending money.

In addition, our society has normalized terms like “retail therapy” and the act of buying new things to cope with negative emotions. These factors combined can make shopping incredibly addictive for people with risk factors for addiction.

What are the consequences of shopping addiction?

Shopping addiction can have serious emotional, psychological, and financial consequences. Aside from the financial ruin many shopping addicts find themselves in, the mental toll of shame, guilt, and anxiety can lead to or worsen existing mental health disorders.

Common consequences of shopping addiction include:

  • Financial issues
  • Bankruptcy
  • Legal trouble due to illegal acts like shoplifting and fraud
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Intense guilt and shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Development of hoarding disorders
  • Worsening of existing mental illness
  • Damage to relationships

What are some healthy alternatives to shopping?

Understanding why you compulsively shop can help you find healthy alternatives to shopping. For example, improving their environment can provide a healthier option for individuals who shop to feel in control.

Things like cleaning your home, working on home improvement options, or focusing on your health can help you feel more in control. Other activities like time in nature, finding interesting hobbies, and spending time with friends and family can also be healthier alternatives.

Is shopping addiction a mental illness?

Yes. Shopping addiction is a behavioral addiction, which is classified as a mental illness in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition).

Similar to conditions like mood disorders, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders, shopping addiction is also treated through a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and mutual support.

Can shopping addiction be treated?

Yes. The most common treatment for shopping addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. In some cases, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications may be helpful to control symptoms or treat undiagnosed co-occurring mental health conditions.

With the right treatment and support from loved ones, shopping addicts can make full recoveries and lead normal lives free of compulsive spending issues.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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