Compulsive shopping or a shopping addiction is a serious topic that cannot be ignored. Spending on things you cannot afford because of pressure from others or even yourself is stress inducing and can lead to trauma.

How You Can Treat and Heal from Shopping Addiction

When you feel upset or sad, do you resort to retail therapy or compulsive shopping to soothe away the pain? If so, you may have a shopping addiction. In this article, we will define shopping addiction and discuss treatment options.

What does shopping addiction look like?

Shopping addictions, like all addictions come from a compulsion to abnormally use people, substances or things (like money). The addiction is the manifestation of dependency on shopping, money or whatever.

Addictions don’t just pop out of nowhere. It is a habit that was cultured and developed over time. Some of us observed and modeled addictions from family members. 

Also, like all addictions, it is not uncommon to have co-occuring disorders. For example, in addition to a shopping addiction, you may also suffer from a obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

How compulsion spirals into addiction

Here is an illustration that may help you understand how a compulsion to avoid pain can lead addictive tendencies.

Picture this: You receive terrible news about something significant in your life. What is your first action? Do you:

  • Call a friend or family member and talk about the issue?
  • Take a walk and clear your head?
  • Write out your plan of action?
  • Open up your phone and visit a website or some social media site to purchase random things because it was a special deal only available for a limited time?

Visiting a website to shop didn’t just come out from random. You might have found comfort scrolling at first, then clicking and finding satisfaction buying things.

The cure from the pain turns into the curse if you are unable to manage the underlying stress behind the pain.

When a shopping addiction manifests, the person suffering from it feels their life is confusing and unmanageable.

Compulsive shopping or a shopping addiction is a serious topic that cannot be ignored. Spending on things you cannot afford because of pressure from others or even yourself is stress inducing and can lead to trauma.

Consequences of Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction, just like any other addictions is the abnormal use of people, places and things (like the use of money). 

Here are signs that you or someone you know are suffering from this illness:

  • Frequently buying things that are never used or worn
  • Forget about the purchase of costly items
  • Running up credit card balances to the max
  • Frequently withdrawing money from the 401K or savings accounts
  • Borrowing money from family and friends and unable to pay it back
  • Buying vacations and other luxury goods with no idea how to pay for it

You or someone you know are not alone with respect with this horrible illness. Research done in 2006 showed that up to 16% Americans are dealing with some of compulsive shopping. Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was shown that high-earning income people were more prone to spend compulsively.

While social media and television shows praise “retail therapy,” there are some serious consequences that come from overspending. Unfortunately, those social media influencers who we admire and urge us to buy more are not interested in paying our bills.

Compulsive shopping or a shopping addiction is a serious topic that cannot be ignored.

Spending on things you cannot afford because of pressure from others or even yourself is stress inducing and can lead to trauma.

We must be clear on subtle forms for trauma if we want healing financially and emotionally. Lets dig in a little more about the connection between trauma and addiction.

influencers won't pay your bills

How does trauma relate to this?

First, let’s define trauma. Financial trauma comes in two forms: acute (a specific moment in time) or chronic (meaning that it occurs over a long period of time).

Acute financial trauma
  • Unexpected health crisis for you or a loved one
  • Home is destroyed or you are forced to migrate
Chronic financial trauma
  • No clear money manager or comptroller in your family
  • No budget or not following your budget

Here are some practical tips to avoid a financial disaster, but in the meanwhile, let’s talk about where to get help for you or someone you know who needs help.

Where to get help

Gamblers Anonymous (GA)

Based on principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, GA is a valuable resource for those with a shopping addiction. Meet with other people in a group setting who struggle with the compulsion to use money as a form of escape and comfort.

There are meetings that occur throughout the world. Locate a nearby location or online meeting here.

Private Therapy

If you don’t feel comfortable in a group setting, meet with a licensed clinical social worker who is trained to deal with addictions. Also, there are trained experts in your church or religious association who may be able to assist you or someone you know.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Behind every addiction there is an underlying trauma. EMDR can help you to understand how the trauma impacted you so that you can be released from the compulsion to overspend. Find a trained EMDR therapist that is near you.

Private Coaching with a Trauma/Addiction Specialist

Unlike a therapist, a trauma-informed coach will help you understand your problems and create a plan to deal with the underlying stress/trauma and manage the compulsion via accountability. I am a life coach that specializes in traumas as well as addictions.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to work with me or any of the professionals listed above.

Closing Thoughts

You or someone you know does not have to suffer in silence due to fear, shame or insecurity. Get the support that you need so that you can live a empowered and healthy life.

Dig Deeper: Listen to this podcast episode about shopping addiction or click on the play button below.


The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat yourself or anyone with a suspected mental health illness.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.

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