Compulsive shopping is excessive spending behavior that leads to distress or impairment. People with a behavioral addiction to shopping are characteristically preoccupied with pre-purchase tension or anxiety and cannot experience a sense of relief until they are able to experience the spend and purchase reward. Studies show that 5.8 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with compulsive buying disorder (Black 2007).
Currently, the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recognize shopping compulsion as a mental health disorder or an addiction due to “insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and course descriptions needed to identify these behaviors as mental disorders.” Instead, compulsive shopping is considered to be under the umbrella of “other behavioral addictions” of which are also considered to be “non-substance addictions”. Behavioral addictions provide short-term rewards, just as substance addictions do and are repeated behaviors that persist in spite of negative consequences (Grant, Potenza, Weinstein, Gorelick 2010).
Very similar to impulse control disorders, people who experience compulsions to shop will experience an increased sense of arousal before shopping and get a feeling of relief and pleasure during or following a shopping spree. There are opposing views on how to categorize impulsive shopping. Some theorists hold that compulsive shopping could be under the impulse control spectrum, which would be a classification of an impulse control disorder. An opposing view to this is classifying compulsive shopping as an addiction.
Comorbidity of substance abuse and other mental health disorders is very common among people with shopping behavioral addictions or impulse control issues. Generally, the shopping problem isn’t defined or assessed unless there are other associated issues. For example, if a person’s shopping addiction or impulse control issue results in anger control issues, substance abuse issues or other mental health issues, then the shopping compulsion will be addressed.
Signs of a shopping behavioral addiction can include
Behavioral therapy focuses on helping individuals understand how their behavior leads to how they feel by engaging people in positive and socially reinforcing activities. Behavior therapy breaks down into three disciplines: applied behavior analysis (ABA), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and social learning theory.
Applied behavior analysis
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Social learning theory
If you or a loved one would like more information on treatment for an addiction or impulse to compulsively shop, you can call the Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178.