OCD Related Conditions Understanding Compulsive Shopping Disorder By Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 18, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Laura Porter Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Characteristics Who Is Affected Treatment Coping For Loved Ones Future Research The American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not recognize compulsive shopping as its own mental disorder. Because of this, there are no consistent criteria for diagnosis. Additionally, researchers debate whether compulsive shopping should be classified as an addictive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mood-regulation difficulty, or impulse-control disorder. Characteristics People who have compulsive shopping disorder (sometimes called compulsive buying disorder) are often struck with an irresistible and overpowering urge to purchase goods in spite of negative consequences. Characteristics of compulsive shopping disorder include: Difficulty resisting the purchase of unneeded itemsFinancial difficulties because of uncontrolled shoppingPreoccupation with shopping for unneeded itemsProblems at work, school, or home because of uncontrolled shoppingSpending a great deal of time researching coveted items and/or shopping for unneeded items Lastly, in order to be considered compulsive buying disorder, the compulsive shopping behaviors must not be associated with another mental health condition, such as the periods of hypomania or mania with bipolar disorder. The fact that compulsive shopping is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), makes the condition difficult to diagnose. Many people who compulsively shop do so as a coping mechanism to mask difficult emotions like stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. But shopping only provides temporary relief from their struggles. Their inability to control their shopping eventually commonly leaves them with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Normal vs. Compulsive Shopping Many people have occasional shopping sprees, particularly in special situations (such as birthdays and holidays). But occasional overspending doesn't mean you're a compulsive shopper. In fact, compulsive shopping doesn't have anything to do with how much money is spent. Rather, it's the extent of the preoccupation, the level of personal distress, and the development of adverse consequences that characterizes the condition. Is Compulsive Shopping Really an Addiction? Who Is Affected More than 1 in 20 U.S. adults (about 6%) have a shopping compulsion. It is believed that the condition has an onset in the late teens or early 20s and rarely begins after age 30. This age range is right around the time many young adults move away from home and establish their first credit accounts. Some research also suggests that women are more likely to be diagnosed with compulsive shopping disorder. This doesn't mean that compulsive shopping is more common among women. It simply means that women are more likely to recognize and seek treatment for a compulsive shopping problem. Additionally, men are more likely to view their compulsive buying as "collecting" rather than a problem. Many compulsive shoppers also experience one of the following co-occurring mental health conditions: Anxiety disorders Eating disorders, including bulimia and binge eating disorder Impulse control disorders, including compulsive gambling, hair-pulling, and skin picking Mood disorders, especially major depression Personality disorders, including avoidant, depressive, obsessive‐compulsive, and borderline personality disorder Substance use disorders Health professionals making a diagnosis of compulsive shopping disorder need to be careful to distinguish between compulsive shopping and the shopping sprees that can sometimes accompany periods of mania in bipolar disorder. Treatment There is some evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may effectively reduce symptoms in many compulsive shoppers by helping people identify the ways in which they use shopping as a coping mechanism and develop healthier coping skills. However, findings have been mixed, and more research is necessary to determine what types of therapy are effective for whom. In addition, there is also evidence that compulsive shopping disorder responds to treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Coping If you are struggling with compulsive shopping, you can use many self-help strategies to help you cope with your symptoms. Develop new hobbies. Most people who compulsively shop turn to shopping when they're bored or stressed. If you use shopping as a stress reliever or a form of entertainment, try to find a healthier replacement. You might give yoga a try. Not only is it great for stress, but it can also be a fun, healthy pastime that you can do alone or with others. Stick to a list. When you must go into a store, make a list of what you need before you go and challenge yourself to stick to your list. Enlist a friend. If sticking to your shopping list and only buying what you need feels impossible, try enlisting a supportive friend to accompany you to the store. Ask your friend to help hold you accountable. Better yet, if another member of your household can take on the responsibility of shopping for the essentials, delegate the shopping to them while you seek treatment. Pay in cash. Give yourself a cash allowance and put the credit cards away for emergencies only. You’ll be much less likely to go on a compulsive spending binge when you have a limited amount of cash in your wallet and no credit cards immediately at your disposal. Unsubscribe and block. Online shopping has made it even easier to shop from anywhere at any time of the day. To curb compulsive online spending, unsubscribe from marketing emails and use an app and browser extension to block or put limits on your access to websites where you most commonly shop. Self-Help Groups for Shopping Addiction For Loved Ones If your loved one is struggling with compulsive shopping, you may not know how to approach them. Their unhealthy shopping habits may be causing a great deal of emotional turmoil and financial stress, leading you to feel frustrated, angry, maybe even sad. It's important to discuss your concerns with your loved one. However, before broaching this sensitive issue with them, it may be helpful to work through your own emotions. Consider consulting a therapist on your own first. A therapist can help you make sense of your emotions and give you a better perspective on the issue. When you approach your loved one, try to come from a place of love and concern. Avoid using shame ("You know better," "You're being selfish") to motivate behavior change. Not only is shame an ineffective tool, but can be harmful. Your loved one likely feels shameful about their compulsive behavior but recovery requires more than feelings of shame. Further Research Needed There is a lot of debate around how this condition should be classified. Some researchers link compulsive shopping to addictive disorders, grouping it alongside alcohol and drug use disorders and behavioral addictions like gambling addiction. Others have linked it to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Still, others link it to mood disorders. With the prevalence of this disorder, as well as the evidence that the number of people affected by it is increasing, more research needs to be done to learn how to more effectively screen and treat people who live with compulsive shopping disorder. Self-Help Groups for Shopping Addiction A Word From Verywell As with any mental health condition, if you think you're experiencing symptoms of compulsive shopping, it's important to talk to a trusted loved one and your healthcare provider about what's troubling you. Do not be ashamed: Compulsive spending doesn't make you a bad or irresponsible person and help is available. 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. McElroy SL, Keck PE Jr, Pope HG Jr, Smith JM, Strakowski SM. Compulsive buying: A report of 20 cases. J Clin Psychiatry. 1994;55(6):242-248. Murali V, Ray R, Shaffiullha M. Shopping addiction. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2012;18(4):263-269. doi:10.1192/apt.bp.109.007880 Lejoyeux M, Richoux-Benhaim C, Betizeau A, Lequen V, Lohnhardt H. Money attitude, self-esteem, and compulsive buying in a population of medical students. Front Psychiatry. 2011;2:13. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00013 Koran LM, Faber RJ, Aboujaoude E, Large MD, Serpe RT. Estimated prevalence of compulsive buying behavior in the United States. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(10):1806-1812. doi:10.1176/ajp.2006.163.10.1806 Maraz A, Griffiths MD, Demetrovics Z. The prevalence of compulsive buying: A meta-analysis. Addiction. 2016;111(3):408-419. doi:10.1111/add.13223 Nicoli de Mattos C, Kim HS, Requião MG, et al. Gender differences in compulsive buying disorder: Assessment of demographic and psychiatric co-morbidities. PLoS One. 2016;11(12):e0167365. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167365 Black DW, Shaw M, Blum N. Pathological gambling and compulsive buying: Do they fall within an obsessive-compulsive spectrum?. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2010;12(2):175-185. Christenson GA, Faber RJ, de Zwaan M, et al. Compulsive buying: Descriptive characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity. J Clin Psychiatry. 1994;55(1):5-11. Koran LM, Aboujaoude E. Treating compulsive buying disorder. Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry. 2014;1(4):315-324. doi:10.1007/s40501-014-0024-3 Hague B, Hall J, Kellett S. Treatments for compulsive buying: A systematic review of the quality, effectiveness and progression of the outcome evidence. J Behav Addict. 2016;(5)3:379-94. doi:10.1556/2006.5.2016.064 Additional Reading Aboujaoude E, Gamel N, Koran LM. A 1-year naturalistic follow-up of patients with compulsive shopping disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;64(8):946-50. doi:10.4088/jcp.v64n0814 Schlosser S, Black DW, Repertinger S, Freet D. Compulsive buying: Demography, phenomenology, and comorbidity in 46 subjects. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1994;16(3):205-212. doi:10.1016/0163-8343(94)90103-1 By Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for OCD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.