Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Shopping Spree, or Addiction?

What happens when shopping spirals out of control, and in some cases, becomes an addiction?

Shopoholism continued...


According to Zehr, these behaviors can also signal a serious problem:


  • Shopping or spending money as a result of feeling angry, depressed, anxious, or lonely
  • Having arguments with others about one's shopping habits
  • Feeling lost without credit cards -- actually going into withdrawal without them
  • Buying items on credit, rather than with cash
  • Describing a rush or a feeling of euphoria with spending
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed after a spending spree
  • Lying about how much money was spent. For instance, owning up to buying something, but lying about how much it actually cost
  • Thinking obsessively about money
  • Spending a lot of time juggling accounts or bills to accommodate spending


"If someone identifies four or more of any of these behaviors, there may be a problem," Zehr explains to WebMD.

Seeking Addiction Help

When a friend or family member recognizes a shopping addiction, start by getting professional help.

"The first thing to do is to seek help, and that can occur at different levels," says Zehr. "For the spouse, family member, or friend who is concerned, an intervention is always a good idea. Also, find the closest Debtors Anonymous, which is a 12-step program that will be important for ongoing maintenance and support. And get credit counseling, as many of the people who seek treatment at our facility have an average debt as a result of their addiction of around $70,000."

Recognize, as well, that treating a shopping addiction requires a multifaceted approach.

"There are no standard treatments for shopping addiction," says Black. "Medications have been used, generally antidepressants that treat, in some cases, the underlying issue of depression in someone with an addiction, but with mixed results. Therapists also focus on cognitive-behavioral treatment programs, and credit or debt counseling can be very helpful to some people, as well."

Black explains that there is no quick and easy answer that will immediately cure a shopping addiction, and while treatment is a necessary part of solving the problem, so is behavior change on the part of the addict.

"With some patients, I tell them they should have a self-proposed ban on shopping, and with others, some of my very worst cases, I tell them they should have someone else controlling their finances for them," says Black.

Black recommends some basic changes in behavior that will have a big impact on breaking a shopping addiction:

  • Admit that you are a compulsive spender, which is half the battle
  • Get rid of checkbooks and credit cards, which fuel the problem
  • Don't shop by yourself because most compulsive shoppers shop alone and if you are with someone you are much less likely to be spend
  • Find other meaningful ways to spend time

And keep in mind that while behavior change is clearly crucial to recovery, so is reaching out for help.

"While I recommend starting with a psychiatric evaluation, you can also find out what resources are in your area, and where you, a relative, or friend can start to get help," says Engs.


Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Woman looking out window
woman standing behind curtains
Pet scan depression
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
Plate of half eaten cakes
mother kissing newborn
Woman multitasking
colored pencils
Woman relaxing with a dog

WebMD Special Sections