Shopping & the love of money addictions

Shopping & the love of money addictions

Shopping addiction, compulsive buying disorder (CBD), compulsive spending, shopaholism or oniomania… 

These are all different ways used to describe a disorder that causes problems for a huge number of people. In fact, it is thought that up to eight percent of people in America are affected to varying degrees.

CBD can be defined in a way that matches any addiction. That is, being unable to stop and stay stopped from something that’s detrimental to the person doing it and/or those around them.

It is described as an impulse control disorder and a behavioral addiction, similar to addictions to gambling, plastic surgery, gaming, the internet, exercise and sex. It is often simultaneously present with substance abuse as well as mood, anxiety and eating disorders.

CBD is not just about going to the shops, although that is frequently a part of it. It can also mean shopping online, and it can mean using cash, cards or making a purchase at the push of a button.

But it’s not only about the moment of purchase either. As with all addictions it grows from being something occasionally done that’s not generally considered unhealthy to something that is all-consuming.

It becomes a total distraction and seemingly the solution for not feeling good. Consequently the more time taken up by it the better – and this includes before, during and after the moment of spending.

Enjoy shopping or addicted to it?

Nearly everyone enjoys getting themselves something new. This most often in the modern world involves making a purchase.

What differentiates shopping addiction from normal shopping is the compulsive, destructive and repeated nature of it.

It’s just like the difference between enjoying a couple of glasses of wine with a meal out now and then – compared to someone downing several whiskies every night.

It is considered that there are five stages involved in shopping addiction. These are:


This is the constant thinking about the time when shopping will begin. For instance, someone is at work all morning, continually anticipating the exact moment at lunchtime when they can start browsing online.


If going out to shop, this is the getting ready part, dressing up and so on. If it’s online shopping, this can be seen as mental preparations such as working out what payment methods can be used, and sometimes which address if things can no longer be sent to a home address (due to trying to keep the shopping addiction a secret).


The actual act of being “at” the shopping, whether that is actually at the shops, mall or whether it’s online. This could compare to meeting the dealer or going into the bar.


This is akin to drinking or using. The climax, this is when the real “high” comes.

Remorse and guilt

This is often on returning home or switching off the device used for shopping. Or it can be the next day or even days later. Once more, it’s very similar to the remorse someone who’s vowed not to drink again or to just have one usually feels when they wake up with a terrible hangover.

The addict feels remorse – although often unknown to them – because the addiction has taken hold of them again. And beaten them yet again.

Guilt arises from spending money that the shopping addict doesn’t have to spend. Or that they know could have been better spent, on such as their children.

It is also frequently from the amount of time spent on the shopping. Ten minutes becomes two hours and as with the alcoholic who only went out for one drink but who lost count after the tenth, there is massive guilt for the waste of that time.

Why shopping becomes an addiction

There is now a low instead of the high. Many of the uncomfortable feelings that the shopping and spending is trying to keep away start to rise once more.

They are likely even worse. Added to them is the new remorse and guilt as well as frequently anger, anxiety, stress and depression.

The shopping addict presently knows no other way to keep away negative thoughts and the accompanying feelings – except for to start the entire process over again.

A thought pops into their head that they could buy something else… They might convince themselves it’s something they need rather than something they merely want.

So their anticipation starts to grow again. As it does, their remorse, guilt and negative feelings seem to go away… It’s a vicious circle.

Despite going shopping again, overall there’s a sense that their life is spiraling out of control. It can cause severe problems at work, in family life, in relationships, total break-ups, lead to other addictions, physical health problems and even be a factor in suicide.

For the love of money…

“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously near to wanting nothing,” wrote author Sylvia Plath.

It is one reason why the love of money can become an addiction too. It is one, of course, that is closely connected with shopping addiction.

“We often use spending to change our unwanted feelings and obsessive thinking,” it’s explained on the Spenders Anonymous website. “Characteristics of compulsive spending include having emotional pain around spending and money issues; spending money we don’t want to spend or spending money we don’t have; or holding onto money too tightly and not being able to let go of it.

“The problem is our relationship with money — how we deal with it, which can be over- or under-spending.”

Someone who uses money to alter the way they feel can let their relationship with money swiftly get out of control. They are then likely to become obsessively focused on getting it, then getting more, and keeping it or spending it.

Or perhaps they start to get increasingly addicted to it because it can control people, including partners, and get them things they want. The power of money becomes addictive.

However, just as with alcohol, cocaine or marijuana, tolerance increases. Almost inexplicably they need more and more.

It swiftly becomes their most important relationship. Any real relationships they have will suffer.

What causes shopping and love of money addiction?

Our 21st Century world undoubtedly plays a part. The rise of consumer culture, giant shopping malls the size of several cathedrals, credit cards, online shopping…

Then there is how we are bombarded with advertising through various forms of media. As well to consider is the general ethos of much of Western society.

“Happiness is not good for the economy,” wrote author Matt Haig in his bestselling book Notes On A Nervous Planet. “We are encouraged, continually, to be a little bit dissatisfied with ourselves.” 

But none of this is the real deep-down cause. This is in the same way that there are bars everywhere, but most people are not alcoholics. 

As with a great many mental health issues, shopping addiction often has roots in childhood. There are frequently self-esteem issues that are linked to how someone was brought up.

Compulsive shopping can be a search for self. This is in someone whose sense of self is low or non-existent. 

Many with a shopping addiction are more materialistic than others. They seek self-worth through the value of what they spend.

This can be connected to how they were brought up. It is either that there was a big value placed on material things or a low opinion of the person as a child – or both of these.

As with other addictions, an addiction to shopping is an attempt at masking and numbing emotional pain. This could be due to trauma or toxic shame.

What treatment is there?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found as a useful treatment to help with shopping addiction. So too has the Twelve Steps recovery program, as used by two groups relevant to this particular addiction: Spenders Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous.

We have decades of experience in successfully treating all addictions, including with CBT as well as with an introduction to the Twelve Steps. At Tikvah Lake Recovery by our stunning tranquil lake and under Florida’s year-round sunny climate we are in the perfect natural environment for recovery.

We offer daily one-one-one treatment plans that will help every guest in the best possible way. These include our proven 10-Day Executive Treatment and 30-90 Day Personalized Treatment programs.

Contact one of our team today to chat about how we can help you or someone you love.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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