Shopping Addiction

Shopping Addiction: When Enjoyment Turns into a Problem?

Most of us like the excitement of a new purchase; opening that bag or box always triggers a sense of pleasure, whether it’s a new dress, a new phone, or some new lego – most people have their ‘thing’ that they enjoy buying. But for some individuals, the enjoyment has become an addiction, and that’s when shopping becomes a problem and a possible shopping addiction. And with today’s easy access to internet purchases, it is even easier to find oneself spending far more money than intended.

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Addicted to Shopping?

The most obvious signal would be that their shopping habits seem to far outstrip what they should be able to afford; nonetheless, for someone in denial about a problem with shopping, he or she would be unlikely to admit to this. So what else could you look for?

  • A wardrobe, or drawers, containing lots of unworn clothes, or unopened bags is one telltale sign. If they have lots of items with the tags still on, they could well have problems with shopping.
  • Someone who is buying lots of things they do not really need, or if you are out shopping with them, they buy things they did not intend to buy (impulse buys). People who have previously admitted to being ‘obsessed’ by something like scarves, or shoes, or jewellery can be particularly at risk of falling into the traps of impulse buys. Just because you have a passion for something does not mean it is ok to buy every time you shop.
  • Something upsetting, like an argument or a difficult day at work, sets of the ‘need to shop’ feeling. If every time life gets a little bit tough you go spending, there is a strong likelihood you have a shopping addiction.
  • Spending money creates a feeling of excitement, no matter what the money was spent on. Once you actually own the item, it becomes of less interest though.
  • Post-shopping guilt or remorse. Not the guilt over spending substantial amounts of money – most of us would feel that – but feeling bad about any purchases. Justifying the spending will generally not be a problem for a shopping addict, however.
  • Hiding the truth about how often you shop, or hiding the things you have bought. Someone doing this clearly knows that they should not have made those purchases, and quite possibly could not really afford to.

What Problems Can Shopping Addiction Cause?

People with an addiction to shopping will usually end up spending far beyond their means, and may well end up in serious debt. This can then lead to them potentially turning to crime to fund their habit, as happened to one carer from Birmingham who narrowly escaped a prison sentence after stealing from two elderly patients she looked after in order to pay her shopping debts.

Rachel Bevington, a mother of six children who worked for Birmingham care firm Jubilee Citizens UK, stole more than £2,500 from the elderly patients she was supposed to be looking after. One of her victims was a seventy-two-year-old lady who had limited mobility. The woman’s bank card went missing, and cheques to Bevington were written out in her name. The theft came to light when the victim’s daughter became suspicious about her mother’s savings becoming less and less, so the company Bevington worked for carried out an investigation into the mater. It was revealed that Bevington also took £243 from an elderly man in his eighties, who has sadly since passed away.

The judge, during sentencing, said to Bevington, “This was a disgraceful breach of trust. You were selfish and devious and you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.” She also stated that Bevington had only escaped a jail sentence because two of her children had special needs.

Who Can Succumb to Shopping Addiction?

Like any addiction, anyone can fall prey to shopping addiction. A recent study showed that online shoppers from the United Kingdom spend more per household than any other country, with many of these purchases later being returned. This suggests that these may have been impulse buys.

Individuals with other addictions may be at a greater risk of also developing an addiction to shopping, either alongside their existing addiction or as an alternative as they go through treatment.

Even Hollywood stars can fall prey to shopping addiction, with the actress Evanna Lynch, best known for her role as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, talking recently about her shopping addiction. She said, “It’s a very privileged addiction to have, but sometimes the thrill of having bought something would wear off as soon as I opened it and I would just send it straight back.” Fortunately for Evanna, she seems to have a handle on her addiction now, saying, “It was then that I was like, ‘this is really unhealthy’. It would be when I felt out of control of my life and I needed something external to make me happy. Like any addiction.” Having previously suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager, Evanna may have been more likely to have developed another addiction later in life, which is what happened. Fortunately, she now seems to have developed a good understanding of how addiction works and is living a much healthier lifestyle because of it.

Where Can People Get Help with Shopping Addiction?

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to shopping, then contact us here at Addiction Helper. Our advisors can help you to decide if you do have a problem that requires professional help, and if so, where to go to get that help. So please, contact us today for more information.


  1. (Huffington Post) Shopaholic: 7 Signs You’re Addicted To Shopping
  2. (BBC) UK’s online shoppers top global spending survey
  3. (Birmingham Mail) Northfield carer stole from elderly victims to pay for shopping addiction debt
  4. (Goss) Evanna Lynch opens up about her struggle with anorexia and her shopping ‘addiction’
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