Is Shopping Addiction A Real Addiction?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

woman holding shopping bags

It can be difficult to understand addictions outside of the scope of chemical addictions. Chemical addictions are easier to understand in some ways. Though chemical addictions don’t always make sense, they can at least be attributed to a specific chemical as opposed to something that might make less sense, like shopping. Is it really possible to get addicted to something that isn’t a chemical substance? Currently, the only process addiction listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V is gambling disorder. However, that doesn’t delegitimize the very real experience that people have in their other process addictions, like sex addiction, love addiction, and even shopping addiction.

Addiction is a word that helps put these disordered behaviors into an order we can understand. As a term, addiction can be defined as the “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance…characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.” Addiction is also defined as a “persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.” Should shopping addiction be considered harmful or something that could present physiological symptoms?

People who develop process addictions, do experience physiological symptoms of withdrawal. They might experience insomnia, an inability to sleep, because their thoughts are racing with obsessions about shopping, for example. When they are near a shopping opportunity at a favorite store they might feel a racing heartbeat, shaking, sweating, or even feelings of nausea- all attempts on the part of the brain to get the body so uncomfortable, it has to act on the shopping urges. This is what makes shopping addiction compulsive, which identifies with the definition of addiction.

Shopping addiction can be harmful. Will it cause an overdose or potentially injure someone else? Not physically. The sentiment “shop till you drop” is not exactly the reality for shopping addicts. Someone who compulsively shops beyond eating and sleeping would be the most extreme form of the addiction- spending waking hours in stores and sleeping hours online shopping, without eating or sleeping. Most often, the known harmful threat of shopping addiction takes place in the bank. Creditors mount, credit cards max, loans max out, and there’s looming financial insecurity deepening with every purchase. Despite the financial trouble, someone addicted to shopping continues to shop and spend, unable to help themselves.


You can be helped. There is help for you and your shopping addiction. Avalon By The Sea is one of Southern California’s only residential treatment programs for primary mental health conditions like shopping addiction. For a confidential assessment and more information on how our trusted programs are providing trusted results, call us today: 888-958-7511

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