Compulsive Buying Disorder

Young woman with shopping bags indoors home on sofa

Do you have that friend or relative that fancy and want to buy every new products on the market, especially online?

They want the fancier cars, nicer clothes and newer technology gadgets. They are not happy with one or two. They want more of everything, more jewelries, more pair of shoes, and more iPad.

When they are depressed, they yearn for something, anything, which would feel their emptiness. And they think spending excessive is the right thing to do.

But when the spree is over, they feel depressed or guilty. And, in order to overcome this guilt and feel better, they resort to spending again.

The compulsive buyer is constantly preoccupied with shopping and this cause significant distress, interfering their relationships and other areas of their life. They deplete their credit cards, accumulate substantial debts and eventually go bankruptcy.

We all make excessive spending.

But not everyone who spends lot of money and time shopping have this condition. For example, some people may spend lot of money during big life events such as birthdays, marriages, graduations or holidays.

A bipolar person has mood disorder and will exhibit such impulsive buying during the manic episode. Unlike the compulsive shopper who feels guilty and would like to hide his or her behavior after the spree, the manic person who may boast about his or her spending and try to convince family or friends that his purchase was necessary.


The signs and symptoms are usually obvious. But the person may deny out of embarrassment or disappointment. This present a major setback for health professional to make appropriate diagnose and make future interventions. The symptoms include;

  • Frequent occupation with buying, which is time consuming
  • Shopping for longer period of time than intended
  • Obsessions with shopping that is intrusive and irresistible
  • Frequent buying of items that are not needed
  • Spending too much than you can afford


The impulsive shopper may have existing problems of substance or alcohol abuse, depression or bipolar disorder. A combination of medication and psychotherapy, mainly cognitive behavioral therapy CBT and talk therapy may prove useful to overcome this addiction.

Medications such SSRI’s and antidepressants help stabilize mood.

CBT and talk therapy help reconstruct thoughts such as “having the latest fashions will make me more popular” or “having 5 pair of new shoes will make me a happier and better person”.

Thanks for reading!

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Resource: Delphi Psychiatry Journal Vol 12 No. 1