I was not aware of the seriousness of Compulsive Shopping/Spending Disorder (CSD) until I recently took a closer look at it. CSD is very similar to other addiction issues such as alcohol, smoking, drugs and sex. Although CSD is not specifically listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS), it does seem to be a well-researched topic in the field of psychology. Often CSD is accompanied by other psychological disorders, commonly depression. A while ago we discussed findings that showed sad people spend more money, prolonged sadness and low self-esteem could potentially lead to CSD.

Symptoms of Compulsive Shopping/Spending

Compulsive Buying: You may just go shopping with the intention to purchase a specific item or a list of items, but you end up purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of things that you do not need.  Not being able control to your urges is a prominent sign of CSD.

Impaired Relationships: Money is often the leading cause of divorce, all the time you spend away from home to shop and create more and more debt will start putting tremendous pressure on your relationships.

Shopping Because Depressed: You find yourself shopping or spending money as a result of feeling angry, depressed, anxious, or lonely. When you have a low self-esteem you may try to make yourself feel better by purchasing new things because it gives you a sense of power and control.

Breaking Your Budget: Consistently going over budget and spending more than you earn. Relaying more and more on credit cards and trying to juggle accounts to buy new things. This will create a tremendous financial strain on you and you may resolve it by spending more, lethal cycle.

Euphoric feeling: Buying new things give you a strong rush, a euphoric feeling.

Crush and Guilt: After the initial rush feeling you feel crushed and ashamed/embarrassed.

You may notice that most of these symptoms are very similar to other addiction symptoms. Compulsive shopping can be an extremely dangerous issue and can lead to criminal acts. If you keep spending more than you earn, eventually all your spending sources (credit cards) will be maxed out and you’ll need other means to satisfy your craving and this can lead to criminal activities (fraud, robbery, etc).

Treatment for CSD

The first step in treating the issue is recognizing that there is a problem and not living in denial. The second step would be to reach out of help from friends/family if possible. There are many treatment options for CSD. Depending on the severity of CSD there are variety of things one can do. If it is at an extreme level then I highly recommend you seek professional help. You can see a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist; there are also groups like “Debtors Anonymous” which are very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Limit Money: When you go shopping try to limit you access to credit. Leave all your credit cards at home and just take enough money to purchase the needed items.

Not Alone: Try not going shopping alone, going with a few friends can help you control your spending. Just make sure you are not going with a friend who shares similar problem; then it’s a recipe for disaster.

Do you know anyone with CSD? What other tips do you have to control compulsive shopping habits?


Ray is an ex-financial adviser and the founder of Financial Highway. Currently working in the financial industry and working towards completing his Chartered Financial Analyst, CFA, designation.