Shopping Addictions 

Are shopping addictions real? I know when I first got clean and sober, I started to spend much more money than before. Part of this was because I had more money because it wasn’t being spent on drugs and alcohol, but the other part was that it was something that made me feel good.

Shopping and spending money was another way that I could find something outside of myself that would make me feel better.


After a few months of being clean, I was fully aware that I was spending too much money. For me, it was as simple as just trying to be more responsible about what I bought and not spending as much. I enjoy shopping and I sometimes spend more than I should, but I wouldn’t consider it a significant problem in my life.


For many people, having a shopping addiction is a very real problem. Just like any other addiction, people with shopping addictions get the same sort of high or rush as other addicts might get from drugs and alcohol. Shopping becomes a compulsive behavior that feels completely out of control. Some of the major signs of having a shopping addiction are:


-       Overspending/spending money that you don’t really have, whether it’s by charging something to a credit card or spending rent/grocery money on unnecessary items

-       Buying compulsively – telling yourself you are going out to buy one thing and ending up with many more things that aren’t necessary

-       Consistently a problem – going on a shopping spree or overspending once or twice doesn’t mean you have a shopping addiction. When it becomes a pattern, though, there may be a problem

-       Hiding purchases – just like drug addicts and alcoholics often try to hide their drug use, a shopping addict may try to hide how much they are spending or what they are buying

-       Relationship problems – as with any addiction, relationships often suffer, and this is no different for someone who is addicted to shopping/spending money.

-       Continued behavior despite negative consequences


It can be hard for some people to understand how a behavior such as shopping or spending money can be considered an addiction, but when you look at the signs, they are almost identical to the signs of drug addiction or alcoholism. What I’ve learned over the past few years is that any behavior can become a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as exercise or using the internet. The internet is just part of our lives today, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a problem. Someone who spends time on the internet and ignores their responsibilities can have a problem with using the internet. Exercising obsessively and compulsively can be a problem, and is a problem, for a lot of people. Exercise is something that is almost always seen as healthy and as a good thing, but this isn’t always the case. It doesn’t really matter what the ‘addiction’ or behavior is, pretty much anything can become detrimental to someone’s well-being and mental health.


There are many people who are in serious debt because they can’t control their spending. It’s important to acknowledge that shopping and spending money truly can be harmful to someone’s life and their well-being. It doesn’t do anyone any good to minimize the problems that can occur from shopping. This addiction is hard to overcome, and like any other kind of problem behavior, shopping addiction treatment might be necessary.

There are a lot of different ways help someone with a shopping addiction. Therapy is one thing that can be very helpful. The most common form of therapy to treat shopping addictions is cognitive behavioral therapy. The aim here is to get the person to understand that their behavior is a problem, and to find ways to change this behavior and replace it with something healthier. Some professionals will recommend getting rid of all checks and credit cards so you can only spend money you actually have. Another option is to let someone else, a spouse or parent, control your finances for a while. It can be helpful to have someone come with you when you go shopping so you can stay accountable to someone. A lot of people spend money and go shopping as a way to channel their emotions, so finding another way to deal with uncomfortable emotions can help with overspending as well. 


There are also a number of 12 step groups that can provide support for someone who shops/spends too much. There is Spenders Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, and Shopaholics Anonymous. All of these groups have websites with a lot of good resources and information on them.


As with any kind of addiction or compulsive behavior, shopping and overspending needs to be taken seriously.  If you have a problem or know someone that has a problem, there are ways to get help and it’s not something you should be embarrassed of. 

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