Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Non-Chemical Addictions You buy, you wake up, you bankrupt. How to stop solving your problems with shopping

You buy, you wake up, you bankrupt. How to stop solving your problems with shopping

07.03.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“Hello, my name is Rebecca Bloomwood and I am a shopaholic.”

It has been noticed that more and more people develop a tendency towards compulsive buying. With increasing frequency some specialists say that shopping can become an addiction, and it requires a lot of attention. Fascination with shopping has a similar effect on a brain as drugs and other types of addiction. Let’s look at the most common features of shopping and alcohol addictions:

Shopping addictionAlcohol addiction
A person enjoys shoppingA person enjoys drinking
A person feels unwell without shoppingA person feels unwell without alcohol
A person is almost or completely unable to control their spendingA person is almost or completely unable to control their drinking
Shopping “eats” a big part of the budget, which leads to conflicts in the family and lower quality of lifeAlcohol has a negative effect on a person and their surroundings

As you can see, they have a lot in common. According to statistics, around 5% of people have this addiction, with younger people being more prone to developing it. Many people think only women can get addicted. In fact, they find it easier to confess that they love shopping. However, men can also be prone to compulsive spending, they just explain it by providing serious reasons, like collecting.

When comes the time to sound alarm? Is there any need to? Let’s find out why people become addicted to shopping, what distinguishes addicts from people who love buying, and how to fight the addiction. You will also be able to check whether you have this addiction.


  1. What is shopping addiction
  2. Life stories
  3. 7 causes for becoming a shopping addict
  4. Difference between a shopping addict and a regular person
  5. Stages of shopping addiction
  6. Understanding you are not a shopping addict
  7. Getting rid of shopping addiction 

What is shopping addiction


Shopping addiction, or oniomania, is a strong and often irresistible urge to buy things you don’t need for the sake of buying. This term, along with the description of symptoms, appeared at the end of XIX century thanks to psychiatrists Emil Kraepelin and Eugen Bleuler. However, people started to pay more attention to this problem only at the end of last century. Now scientists know more about shopping addiction as a disease, which also means we can overcome this problem.

We will help you to give up your addiction to shopping

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

Life stories

I looked into a shop window

and saw another world, a miraculous world of perfect things.

Here all the grown up  girls get what they want.

“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella

Compulsive buying stems from learned behavior, although it can also come from genetic predisposition to addictions in general. A person develops a habit to replace various needs with shopping. Here are several examples:

Mary is sad because her manager yelled at her. Mary wants to be a bit happier. Mary knows that shopping is fun, so she goes shopping and spends her whole monthly salary. Unfortunately, Mary’s manager yells a lot, so she has to boost her mood quite often. 
John’s family is in a difficult state. Everyone is arguing and yelling, and John’s mother has depression. John knows that buying a new tank in a game will boost his mood and let him distract from his troubles. Unlike family situation and mother’s health, shopping is something he has control over. 
Jane has relationship issues. All advertisements tell her that “real women always buy this thing”. Jane wants to be a real woman, so she buys everything she sees, like make-up, clothes, accessories, in hope of finding herself a good man this way. 

Unfortunately, neither of these people can solve their long-term problems this way. Shopping acts as a pair of crutches, a temporary support that does not eliminate the issue.

7 causes for becoming a shopping addict

Every time I add something to my pile, I feel a little whoosh of pleasure,

like a firework going off. And for a moment, everything’s all right.

“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella


While people from our examples buy hoards of useless things, let’s look at the situations and emotions that lead to shopping addiction.

Obtrusive advertising

A lot of media tells us what we should do to become the best, the real, the most confident one etc. “Housewives choose this mayo”, “get a natural look with these 10 types of foundation”, “all women will be yours if you use this deodorant”, “you friends will be jealous if you buy this watch”. These are just a few examples of the way marketing experts manipulate us. The advertisement itself is focused on the things we get if we buy the item, rather than its quality: happiness, love, attention from the opposite sex. Advertisements offer a dream, and many people  easily fall for it.

2. Family issues

Unreasonable saving. For example, if parents were forced to cut down expenses (or did so willingly), bought only food and necessary items, rarely toys, then their children, when they grow up, try to compensate for the lack of material things and spend all their own money on shopping.

Overspending. Another extreme example is overspending, when the parents are shopping addicts themselves or try to compensate for the lack of attention and love towards the child by buying new toys and other things. A child gets used to the idea that love equals spending and adopts this pattern.

3. Desire for freedom and control over own life

A lot of young people think that shopping frees them from parental control, allow them to make their own decisions and control their lives (after all, they decide for themselves what they need and what they buy). The same pattern can be seen in families with controlling family members (parents, spouse etc.).

4. Self-doubt

In this case people want to raise their self-esteem by indulging in shopping. This makes them feel wealthy (“I can afford many things, I am not poor”), attractive (“I buy expensive clothes and make-up”), respectable (“I have fashionable accessories”) etc.

5. Lack of joy in life

This, as well as parting with a loved one, stress, lack of hobbies and  physical activity, lack of social communication can cause the addiction. In this case shopping becomes an easy way to enjoy life and relieve boredom

6. Family problems

According to some data, people whose relatives developed depression, anxiety, alcohol addiction etc. are more at risk for becoming shopping addicts

7. Disposition towards depression and anxiety

This often goes hand in hand with shopping addiction. Shopping (along with overeating) lets people distract themselves from distressing thoughts, silence their anxiety, which stems from the discrepancy between a real and ideal “me”, create an illusion of being active.

All these categories have a common feature: shopping does not solve any problems, does not relieve anxiety or signs of depression, but they act as a natural and simple way to find peace.

Difference between a shopping addict and a regular person.

When I am in the shop, the world seems better. But then darkness crawls back, and I go there again.

“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella

You might say: “Well, I bought myself a nice new blouse when I was upset. Does that really make me a shopping addict?”

Of course not. Single purchases do not turn us into addicts, regardless of our state during said purchase. How can we recognize the problem then?

Common buyer
Shopping addict
Usually knows what they want to buy 
Goes shopping for the sake of shopping 
Knows why they need their new item and use it 
Buys things for fun and doesn’t use them afterwards 
A desire to buy an item does not interfere with other thought processes 
Fascination with buying overwhelms other thoughts and desires 
Usually content with their purchases if the items are of good quality 
Often blames themselves for buying useless or expensive items 
Rarely speaks about shopping 
Often discusses their purchases 
Doesn’t get upset or feels slight sorrow when they are unable to buy something 
Gets upset and crestfallen when they are unable to buy something 
Shopping is a fun way to pass some time, but it is definitely not the only one 
Shopping is the best thing in the world 

Shopping is one of the most useless and short-lived ways to relieve stress or bad mood. Purchasing items never improve your state in long-term, much like alcohol, smoking, eating and watching TV. You will eventually get angry and disappointed with yourself after buying things. A shopping addict usually goes through the following cycle: 


Sometimes shopping addiction can make people go deep in debt, delete notifications about their purchases, lie to their friends or relatives, lose their social connections and even commit crimes in order to fulfill their urge to buy. This addiction can also lead to pathological hoarding.


An example of a room of a shopping addict and a hoarder

Stages of shopping addiction

Just something small, to cheer me up.

A T-shirt or something. Or even some toothpaste.

I need to buy myself something. I won’t spend much.

I’ll just go in, and…

“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella

A shopping addiction does not suddenly appear at such a serious stage, it gradually develops. As with any other addiction, it has 5 stages of habit formation. Let’s look at the stages described by G. V. Starshenbaum [1], a psychologist and author of several books on addictology (science of addiction):

Stage 1. Formation.  A person experiences an emotional lift during shopping, sense of happiness or risk etc. They form a connection: buying—fun.

Stage 2. Habit.  A person resorts to shopping when they are upset, anxious, or experience other negative emotions. They develop an idea that shopping is the easy and available way to boost the mood. Treatment of the addiction should already start at this stage.

Stage 3. Dissolving. Shopping becomes a usual and stereotypic reaction to various life events, the urge to buy prevails other desires. A person does not accept criticism, ignores any advice, disregards problems of other people. It is quite difficult to get rid of the addiction at this stage without professional help.

Stage 4. Addiction. A person distances themselves from others, loses any social connections diving deep into their addiction. Shopping is not as enjoyable as it used to be, so a person feels the urge to do it more and more often.

Stage 5. Personal degradation. A person exhausts their resources, they are always upset and depressed, shopping does not improve their mood any longer.

Understanding you are not a shopping addict


You know the feeling when you see a handsome guy,

he smiles at you, and suddenly your heart melts like butter on a toast?

That’s the feeling I get when I enter a shop.

“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella


Use our check-list to find out whether you have a disposition towards shopping addiction. Read the following statements and rate your agreement with them. Every time you answer “yes” or “mostly yes”, you earn 1 point. Answers “no” and “mostly no” give you 0 points

Shopping addiction check-list
I enjoy picking and buying things in shops
I am often angry with myself due to excessive spending
I had to take a loan or borrow money to buy an item I really wanted but didn’t actually need
I feel guilty for making unnecessary expenses
I sometimes promise myself not to buy new things, but then I break this promise
When I feel sad, I go shopping or look at the things online
Neither me nor my family uses most of the things I buy
I feel sad and upset when I cannot buy something
I feel that I cannot control my shopping
I’d like to buy less


  • If you have earned at least 4 points, you should think about consulting specialists.
  • If you have less than 4 points, you are most likely able to keep your desire to buy new things on a leash.

Getting rid of shopping addiction

shopping addiction

There are lots of free pleasures which we forget

because we’re so busy spending money,

like parks and museums or a picnic in the open country and the simple joy of a country walk.

“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella


You may be feeling upset after seeing your results, but you shouldn’t panic. Shopping addiction is a problem with behavior, meaning it is a psychological, not a physical addiction. You will not experience any withdrawal symptoms after quitting it. Your body does not get damaged by it, unlike people with alcohol and drug addiction. This simply means that it is much easier to treat, while medication can be less effective than psychotherapy. Behavior and cognitive behavior therapy work exceptionally well in treating shopping addiction. 7Spsy method is based exactly on that. With this behavior modification technique, you will get rid of a habit to buy all the things in just 2-6 weeks.  

We will help you to give up your addiction to shopping

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

Behavior therapy aims at discovering and changing knee-jerk behavioral reactions. For example, a shopping addict may go shopping when they are stressed. The start by doing this occasionally, but eventually this behavior pattern takes more and more space in their lives, becoming the only way to handle stress.

Shopping urge is often caused by a variety of factors. For example, parents might buy toys for their child if they think it is the only way to express care, and the child might get used to asking for new things when they want to feel loved by their parents. As the result, all members of the family develop a habit of replacing communication with purchases.  

How can we treat shopping addiction if this is a developed mindset? First you need to carefully analyze all the situations that make you go shopping. This will help you to figure out your mindset, a set of convictions that lead to developing shopping addictions.

During our behavior modification course, a psychologist will help you discover these convictions and replace them with healthy behavior patterns.

Remoteness also plays a great role. Many shopping addicts are ashamed by their excessive spending and try to hide it, but they are ready to answer test problems. Moreover, testing is convenient and saves time. 7Spsy behavior modification technique is completely private, and our specialists will be able to figure out your problem without discussing personal topics.

Overcoming your addiction will make your life more colorful and entertaining. You will learn to enjoy simple things, like walking in a park, talking to friends, reading books and watching interesting movies. Life without addiction can be truly interesting and beautiful. Never forget that.


  1. G. V. Starshenbaum, «Addiktologiya. Psihologiya i psihoterapiya zavisimostej».