Shopping has often been considered "therapy"; an activity to do and enjoy, when you have spare time, energy and money. An activity to do with someone else or on your own! But, also it's an essential activity for day to day living. For some people however this has developed to problematic behaviour. Compulsive shopping/buying or spending, is also known by the scientific term 'oniomania'.

* explains it like this "Shopping addiction, as with other behavioural addictions, is a disorder rooted in an imbalance in the brain's reward centres, characterised by a compulsion to make new purchases constantly, regardless of whether or not the items being bought are necessary, and despite any negative impact such purchases and spending may have upon the addict's well-being – financial or otherwise."

Shopaholics are often, though not, by any means always, women. For many people, shopping provides an activity acceptable to society to change our mood. The advertisements scream out at us everywhere we look, from telephone boxes to junk mail, 'come buy me today', 'you need me now', and 'I'll heal your mood.' As with all addictions when the addictive trances wear off, the desire to get another 'fix' becomes very strong.

In her book "I shop therefore I am", Dr. Benson states: "that as many as 1⁄4 of us have problems with buying and studies suggest that between 1 - 6 % of the population are fully fledged compulsive buyers".

There is a growing trend to shop online. * says "Because modern technology has made online shopping easier and more accessible, everyday shoppers are more susceptible to online shopping addiction than ever before. Consumers can simply launch apps like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy directly from their devices no matter where they are and what they're doing, and have orders placed within minutes. E-commerce retailers even use special marketing tactics on their websites to trick people into buying items they don't really need."

  • Are you having trouble controlling your spending?
  • Do you experience a sense of excitement/elevated mood while out shopping?
  • Do people close to you express concern over the amount of time/money you spend shopping?
  • Do you find yourself shopping even though you'd previously decided you did not want to/had vowed not to?
  • Is your buying causing problems in other areas of your life such as relationships, finances or social life?

The addictive shopper will often have several credit/store cards; they may go out in a compulsive or uncontrolled manner and buy many of the same items all at once, items they may not want or need. They may feel guilty after a spending spree then get depressed, so to combat the depression go out and spend more money. This is a very serious addiction and should not be looked upon any differently to any other addiction. They may also have various items at home, tucked away still in their original packaging. Some may be continually returning the items, or disposing of them in other ways.

Shopping addition can have many serious consequences:

  • Financial hardships/ruin
  • Poverty (destitution)
  • Breakdown of relationships
  • Further life/work prospects ruined
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Some tips to protect yourself if you feel you may be at risk:

  • Do not carry credit cards/cheque books around with you.
  • Keep only a limited amount of cash on you - for essentials.
  • Don't window shop - 'lead us not into temptation!'
  • Don't play games or try to justify purchases.
  • Try to avoid advertisements, where possible.
  • Plan alternative activities when you would normally be out shopping.
  • Talk it over with someone else - contact us if you like.

Benson Dr. A. L. (2000). 'I shop, therefore I am' compulsive buying and the search for self. Jason Aronson Inc USA.