Many tend to directly associate a shopping or spending addiction with financial ruin. However, these two situations are not necessarily intertwined. A person who has plenty of financial resources may still be affected by a shopping and spending addiction. Alternatively, someone may have serious financial difficulties due to the inability to work or problems securing employment, poor financial decisions, and other factors, such as health problems.

The difference between one who has financial problems, but doesn’t have a shopping and spending addiction can be compared to one who is physically dependent on drugs because they have developed tolerance to a medically necessary medication, but not drug addicted. This is in contrast to the person may or may not be physically dependent on a drug, but is a drug addict or alcoholic because they are exhibiting the signs of abnormal behavior, thoughts, and consequences that are associated with the diagnosis of drug addiction and alcoholism.

Having looked at the distinctions between a shopping addiction and one with financial problems, many of those with shopping and spending addictions do go on to have financial trouble. This is because they get a boost in self-esteem, mood, a “high”, or some sort of relaxation when shopping and spending. Those with a shopping addiction feel that a purchase will either better their self-esteem, increase personal happiness, or improve one’s reputation. Though, the satisfaction achieved from shopping and spending is typically short-lived, and a sadness, depression, anxiety or even worse self-esteem follows the period of uncontrolled shopping and spending.

There are others who deal with impulse control issues, and although most people have participated in an impulsive buying decision at some point in their life, those without an impulse control disorder learn from the experience and refrain from impulsive buying in the future. Others, who have problems with impulse control, go on to participate in continued impulsive buying. But, impulsive buying and spending is not the same as a shopping or spending addiction.

Those with impulsive buying issues don’t experience the same negative consequences as those with a full-blown addiction to spending money and purchasing items, whether the individual needs them or not. Frankly, those with a spending and shopping addiction are likely to buy items that they don’t, in fact, even want or care for, just to get a “shopper’s high”.


  1. Attempting to be perfect or “keeping up with the Jones’”
  2. Poor self-esteem and feelings of inferiority
  3. Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
  4. Being attached to having material possesses/unable to let go of material possessions – Hoarding
  5. Feelings of shame
  6. Other addictions or compulsions
  7. Gambling problems
  8. Other impulsive behaviors

Those who make poor spending and financial decisions are not the same as those who spend compulsively, with incessant and needless shopping. The people who shop to control or change their mood, rather than attempting to make a change internally, are the ones who are suffering from a shopping and spending addiction. And, just because a person sometimes shops when they get a bonus check at work, are feeling down, or just want to relax, it doesn’t mean that they are addicted to shopping and spending. Many people drink occasionally, but do not suffer from alcoholism. The defined signs and symptoms of shopping and spending addiction are typical of those of other addictions, such as drug addiction and alcoholism.


Fantasy – Planning, anticipation and excitement about future shopping

Exhilaration – Shopping, spending, and euphoria

The release – Calmness, satisfaction, and reliving the shopping experience and admiring the new purchases

The letdown – Sadness, guilt, remorse, anxiety, and fear over what has been done.

Repetition – The cycle starts again


  1. Incessant shopping, the inability to cut down on spending and shopping, and making frequent unnecessary purchases or buying things, even when the addict doesn’t want or care for the item
  2. Purchasing items in multiples
  3. Inability to stick with a shopping list and frequently spending over planned budget
  4. Rationalization and justification of purchases
  5. Financial problems
  6. Relationship problems and frequent arguments over money, shopping and spending
  7. Frequently buying things and then returning them
  8. Loss of control over shopping and spending
  9. Euphoria and elation when shopping
  10. Lack of sleep, self-care, and medical care due to excessive time spent shopping, thinking about shopping, or planning shopping, online or in a brick and mortar store
  11. Shopping to attempt to control one’s mood, i.e., when depressed, anxious, lonely, or angry
  12. Severe anxiety, panic, depression and jitters when one is without a credit card or other means to shop
  13. Mood lability, anger, agitation, anxiety, and sadness when unable to shop or spend money or when trying to cut down or stop spending money and buying in excess
  14. Shame, embarrassment, and guilt over shopping and spending
  15. Lying or minimizing the price of purchases, or outright hiding the purchases altogether
  16. Spending a large amount of time transferring money to cover expenses

Like other addictions, there is a cycle of addiction for compulsive shopper and spenders.


Shopping and spending addiction is a disorder that is responsible for a significant amount of suffering with individuals and their families. Living with guilt and shame is difficult, to say the least. But that is compounded by financial, emotional, relationship, housing and other problems in a full-blown shopping addiction. If you or a loved one needs help or resources to rebuilding a peaceful and fruitful life that has been destroyed by a shopping and spending compulsion, there are providers, facilities, and addiction treatment centers that can help.

During the process of treatment for a shopping addiction, one will learn coping skills on how to manage triggers for spending, how to manage one’s mood without purchasing excessive or unnecessary items, and learn how to build self-esteem from the inside out. Other mental health and medical problems should also be addressed simultaneously. Case management services are particularly important in the treatment of this type of addiction because vocational therapy, motivational therapy, and financial planning are all part of a strong recovery program.

For more information on shopping addiction and to locate the resources that can help you or a loved one recover from a shopping and spending addiction, you may contact an Addiction Specialist at NAI by calling 844-889-8140.