Confessions of a Shopaholic

There is a difference between a little ‘retail therapy’ and a shopping addiction. Shopping addiction is a real problem, a real addiction. Shopaholics are unable to let go of the exhilaration that shopping brings, a feeling that they are better for their purchases.

The euphoric state prior to a spending spree and the hours spent fantasising about what he or she will spend their money on are commonplace emotions for this condition – as they are too for bulimia (but with food rather than shopping) and many other addictions alike. The euphoria is mirrored by the opposite emotions after the spending spree has occurred.


Often a sufferer will spend many hours after their spending spree considering the cost of the items they have purchased and will sink into a depressive state as the reality of how much money they have spent kicks in.

As with other addictions, the resulting overwhelming sense of shame, remorse and guilt accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, can lead to despair. Often, the remedy for this despair is more addictive behaviour, resulting in more self-destructive feelings.

How do I know if I have a problem?

Answer the following questions to help you decide if you have a problem:

  • Do you use shopping as a quick fix when you’re feeling low?
  • Do you regularly spend more than you can afford?
  • Are some of your purchases unused or hidden?
  • Do you feel guilty or ashamed of this behaviour?
  • Would your life be happier (and richer) if you were shopping less?
  • Have your attempts to change been unsuccessful?

Why do people shop compulsively?

The feeling of euphoria and the belief that the purchase will make the person feel better or happier is very persuasive. These feelings block out or gloss over the uncomfortable reality of their normal everyday existence.

They might well be suffering from stress due to problems at work or may be suffering the break up of a relationship. But, whatever the reason, the compulsion to spend money in order to feel happy and content is a strong one.

This problem, although one that is not as well publicised as addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, food or sex, is still high on the list of addictions that can lead to emotional breakdown as well as the break up of relationships and families.

Some consequences of shopping addiction are:

  • High levels of debt.
  • Fear of discovery.
  • Retribution leading to denial and desperate acts to cover up the behaviour.

For those closely connected to the person, life can become frightening and unpredictable with a growing sense of uselessness and the belief that the person is deliberately causing chaos. A feeling of desperation can set in.

Can shopping addiction be cured?

Many sufferers are multi-addicted, sometimes abusing prescribed drugs or alcohol in addition to the compulsive spending. The familiar pattern of overindulging and then feeling guilt, shame and despair takes the same shape with many addictions. But, the despair can be ended through successful treatment and people can return to living and enjoying a normal life.

As with other addictions, success follows an honest admission of the problem and the seeking of help from others.

If you are aware of someone within your family or a close friend who you think might be suffering from this addiction, or any other, it is important to try and encourage them to seek professional counselling help.

You can show them this article or the Internet addiction fact-sheet for more help and advice. If they’re ready, encourage them to use the advanced search tool to find a professional nearby that can help them overcome their problems.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Cindy Barnes MBA, Dip. TA Counselling, MBACP & Author

I believe that you have the answers you seek inside of yourself. My role is to help you rediscover and reconnect with yourself to find those answers that are right for you.
Are you a perfectionist who is your own worst critic? Is your priority other people and making them happy? Are you a bright, quick thinker or over-thinker? Do you often get overwhelmed by life and may suffer from anxiety… Read more

Written by Cindy Barnes MBA, Dip. TA Counselling, MBACP & Author

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