Who doesn’t like a little retail therapy occasionally after a bad day or even a good one?  But what happens when that retail therapy veers into the lane of operating like a shopaholic?


This is what we usually call someone who shops a lot.  Who are we kidding.  That’s what we call a woman when her shopping habits are out of control!  And, we all know someone like this.

There’s clearly a spending addiction at play and sometimes it can be difficult to determine if there’s a true addiction or if the person just needs help controlling their spending.

Impulse Shopping

Most of us are familiar with impulse shopping based on our own experiences.  You’ve been there, window shopping at your favorite store and you just have to have that new purse or cute dress.  Personally, is the devil that tempts my wallet whenever I log on because it is just so convenient to have almost anything shipped to me the next day.  Bottom line is that it’s generally a purchase that was unplanned.  Still, impulse shopping can be benign as long as you’re staying within your predefined budget limitations.

Compulsive shopping

While a similar, compulsive shopping is an altogether bigger beast to manage.  Prof. Ruth Engs, RN, EdD tells us the following about this addiction:

Shopaholics, when they are feeling “out of sorts, shop for a ” pick-me-up.” They go out and buy, to get a high, or get a “rush” just like a drug or alcohol addict. Shopping addiction tends to affect more women than men.   Women with this compulsive disorder often have racks of clothes and possessions with the price tags still attached which have never been used. They will go to a shopping mall with the intention of buying one or two items and come home with bags and bags of purchases. In some cases shopaholics have an emotional “black out” and do not remember even buying the articles.   They are often in denial about the problem.  Because they can not pay their bills their credit rating suffers, they have collection agencies attempting to get what is owed, may have legal, social and relationship  problems. They sometimes attempt to hide their problem by taking on an extra job to pay for bills.

What’s Worse?

Compulsive shopping can evolve into life changing consequences.  The emotional highs and lows mirror a physical addiction because of the adrenaline rush that occurs when engaging in the shopping spree.  Once the shopper starts to come from the high then feel the need to shop again to avoid feelings of depression and anxiety.  Pretty vicious cycle where the shopper just can’t seem to jump off the merry go around of spending addiction.  If not addressed, then there can be deleterious consequences such as financial problems that can lead to divorce, bankruptcy and even broken relationships.

Are You A Binge Shopper?

Take this quiz from ShadesofHope to determine if you have a problem:

  • Do you use shopping to improve your mood?
  • Do you use shopping as a reward for good behavior?
  • Do you spend more money shopping than you can afford?
  • Do you rationalize your overspending (e.g. it was on sale, it’s just a little splurge, this was a bargain, etc.)?
  • Do you feel giddy or “high” when you make a purchase?
  • Do you feel guilt, regret or shame after shopping?
  • Do you have “secret” credit cards?
  • Do you hide purchases?
  • Do you forget purchases you bought?
  • Do you tell your loved ones you spent less than you did on shopping?
  • Do you shop year-round?
  • Is it hard for you to browse without purchasing?
  • Can you stop yourself from shopping?
  • Does shopping preoccupy your thoughts?
  • If you cannot purchase something you want, do you feel overly angry, upset or frustrated?
  • Do you juggle expenses to accommodate your shopping?
  • Is your shopping hurting your overall budget?
  • Do you dread the day your bills come in the mail?
  • Are you often surprised at the amount you’ve spent when confronted by a credit card bill, your bank statement, a loved one or your accountant?
  • Are you honest with your loved ones about how much you spend or what you buy?
  • Is your shopping behavior hurting a loved one (e.g. loved one who has to pay bills, children who need college funds, a parent who has to cover your debt, etc.)?

If you find yourself answering yes to several questions, then you may have a problem.

Help Anyone?

I wrote about finding help over at Binge Behavior.   There I go into detail about the root causes as well as where to find help!  Check it out!