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What Is Retail or Shopping Addiction?

People need to shop for necessities, like food, toiletries, clothing, and more. However, there are some who experience a genuine need to continue to shop for things they do not need. This is known as compulsive buying disorder (CBD). 

Compulsive buying disorder is an addiction to shopping and buying unnecessary goods. Some call this retail addiction or shopping addiction. There is no shame in being diagnosed with compulsive shopping disorder, and CBD can be treated. 

What Is Compulsive Buying Disorder? 

According to World Psychiatry, compulsive buying disorder is “characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that lead to stress or impairment.” Compulsive buying disorder is found internationally, and around 80% of those with compulsive buying disorders are women. Although, this statistic is thought to be misrepresented by underreporting in men. 

People with CBD report intense amounts of anxiety, psychiatric comorbidities, mood disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and struggles controlling impulses. Studies have shown that compulsive buying disorder tends to run in families along with other co-occurring disorders such as depression, mood, substance, and anxiety disorders. 

Consistencies With Compulsive Buying Disorder

Compulsive buying often leads a person into serious amounts of debt and regret because they cannot stop spending money. When the financial ruin is exposed, it may help the victim to admit they have a problem with compulsive buying. However, many do not want to admit they have a problem. 

According to a survey by World Psychiatry, the onset age for compulsive buying disorder seems to be in the teens and twenties. This is realistic in that children will start buying on their own as teenagers and continue to have their own money in early adulthood. 

Those who struggle with compulsive buying disorder will spend copious amounts of time feeding this addiction. They may be in shops quite often or struggle with online shopping. 

Shopping online was very popular before the COVID-19 pandemic isolation began, and now, with the prevalence of online shopping, many people are struggling to stop. Vendors that sell exclusively online have made it very easy to continue to shop at all hours. People with CBD may spend lots of time on their computers or other devices constantly shopping and buying. 

Symptoms of Compulsive Buying Disorder 

There are four main phases of compulsive buying disorder. These include anticipation, preparation, shopping, and spending. 

The anticipation phase of CBD is the first phase where a person has thoughts, feelings, urges, or desires to buy a specific item or go shopping in general. The person may try to fight it but will become preoccupied with the item they long for. 

In the preparation phase of compulsive buying disorder, the person will plan and think of how, where, and when they will shop. They may plan their outfit and transportation. They may also think of what monetary source they will use, such as which credit card they can access. In this phase, a person may go over coupons, sales, and different events going on at the stores they plan to target. 

In the shopping phase, a person will go shop and fulfill their plan from the preparation phase. They may describe this experience as incredibly exciting, riveting, and even sexually exciting for some. 

In the spending phase, the purchase is paid for. This is described by those suffering from CBD as a letdown, coming down from the shopping high and creating a sense of disappointment in themselves. Negative emotions that come with this letdown will follow, like shame, embarrassment, anxiety, depression, boredom, critical or harmful self-thoughts, and anger. 

Most people who have compulsive buying disorder will go shopping by themselves due to embarrassment or a lack of close people who buy at the capacity they do. Other people tend to see the limitations in their shopping, whereas those with CBD will not. Shopping could occur in any type of venue from high-range fashion to thrift stores. Even some extreme couponers have a form of compulsive buying disorder. 

Compulsive shoppers will often buy in quantity or buy because there is “a deal,” ranging from small to large quantities. There is no fixed “average” price that compulsive shoppers typically spend. However, it is noted that many people who report that they are concerned about their compulsive buying are spending way over their budget. 


Treatment for CBD will depend on any co-occurring disorders as well, so it can vary for each person. Generally, many people with CBD will also struggle with depression or anxiety-related illnesses. The most common and effective treatment for CBD is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Support groups, self-help books, and general therapy have also proven effective for those with compulsive buying disorder. 

Compulsive buying disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s okay to admit you have a problem shopping. If you feel you have a problem and your quality of life is limited due to a shopping addiction, call us at RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, we specifically treat compulsive shopping and spending, and we know that we can help you through this. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can walk you through our facility, and help you create a treatment plan that is specifically catered to you. At RECO Intensive, we offer a myriad of therapies to choose from. These happen to include cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual therapy, support groups, and even adventure therapy. We can help you to learn strategies in treatment to help your compulsive buying disorder, and any co-occurring disorders as well. Don’t wait, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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