Compulsive Buying Disorder

compulsive buying

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is an obsession with shopping. Alternatively known as shopaholism or shopping addiction, this condition involves a problematic buying behavior that causes adverse consequences.

What Is Compulsive Buying Disorder?

Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is a mental health condition in which a person experiences the persistent, frequent, and uncontrollable urge to purchase material possessions. It is also known as “oniomania” (from Greek “ṓnios” meaning “for sale” and “manía” meaning “insanity”).

Mental health experts often classify compulsive buying disorder as a personality disorder or impulse control disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In other cases, it has been labeled as a dependence disorder or a money disorder.

The characteristics of compulsive shopping disorder include excessive shopping cognitions and compulsive buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment. It is distinguished by a motivation to feel better, rather than reveling in excessive spending and materialism alone.

Most of the time, the items purchased by compulsive shoppers tend to be inexpensive or of low quality with low shelf-life. However, people suffering from CBD tend to buy in large quantities, resulting in out-of-control spending.

Compulsive buying disorder affects 1 in 20 adults 1 in a lifetime worldwide 1. Around 12–16% of the global population 2 appears to suffer from compulsive buying behavior in varying degrees.

It is also found that the tendency for compulsive shopping in women 2 is higher than those in men or children. Studies associate CBD with financial stress, substantial debt, relationship problems, elevated risk of criminal behavior, suicide attempts, etc.

Normal vs. Compulsive Shopping

Compulsive shopping is a mental health condition. Usually, people purchase items of necessity or things that pertain to special occasions such as birthdays or festivals. Compulsive shopping, on the other hand, involves an obsessive and impulsive urge 3 to buy certain things that may not be useful to the buyer.

Conditions Associated with Compulsive Buying Disorder

Case Example

Dhruvi had been living above her means and regularly spending more than she could afford to. By the age of 30, she was struggling to pay her credit card debts but at the same time, could not stop herself from shopping every day. As soon as she got any money, she would spend it on clothes, shoes, make-up, and a bunch of other things that she did not need.

After having taken several loans from her friends and failing to pay them back, she was gradually cut off from most of her social circles. This did not help her condition, as Dhruvi started buying more material things to cope with her loneliness.

Over the years, Dhruvi’s mood had become directly dependent on new purchases. If she wasn’t able to buy something every day, she would experience low moods and a lack of motivation until her next purchase, similar to the emotional withdrawal that an addict experiences.

Case Analysis

From Dhruvi’s symptoms, it is apparent that she was experiencing a constant, uncontrollable urge to spend money. In other words, she seemed to be suffering from a compulsive buying disorder. Her behavior was largely out of her control, as opposed to impulse buying which is relatively easier to deal with.

Read About Impulse Buying Here

Symptoms of Compulsive Buying Disorder

The symptoms 1 of compulsive shopping addiction include

  1. Excessive spending
  2. Inability to control the urge to spend
  3. Shopping in order to cope with low mood and stress
  4. Regret/ remorse over purchases
  5. Buying to improve one’s social standing or self-image
  6. Interpersonal difficulties due to excessive expenditure
  7. Financial difficulties due to one’s shopping habits
Types of Compulsive Shoppers

Causes Of Compulsive Shopping Disorder

Research 2 attributes the risk factors for compulsive shopping disorder to

1. A history of trauma and emotional deprivation

People with traumatic experiences 4 of sexual abuse or parental abuse and neglect in childhood are likely to develop compulsive shopping tendencies in adulthood.

2. Individual characteristics

People are prone 5 to compulsive buying disorder if they have personalities linked to:

  • Impulsivity
  • Boredom
  • Hoarding tendencies
  • Reduced psychological resilience to stress, negative emotions, etc.
  • Behavior seeking excitement, thrill, or novelty
  • Melancholy

3. Development of “reward dependence” behavioral addictions

Studies show that people with disturbed neurotransmission, particularly involving dysfunctional serotonergic, dopaminergic, or opioid systems are at a greater risk of compulsive buying disorder. These neurotransmitters play a role in “reward dependence”, thereby fostering behavioral addictions 6 related to gambling, hoarding, substance use, etc.

4. Consumerism

The urge for compulsive shopping can be triggered by venues or settings that encourage spending money. Obsessive shopping may occur in several venues ranging from high fashion department stores and boutiques to consignment shops or garage sales.

Additionally, certain capitalist consumer cultures 7 can goad certain types of shoppers into developing compulsive buying disorder. Shopaholics, especially “trophy shopaholics” or “collector shopaholics”, may take to compulsive shopping for personal ends.

They are either excessively shopping for the perfect items or are likely to take up compulsive spending to maintain the image of a big spender with flashy possessions.

Tips To Manage Compulsive Spending

The first step to seeking professional help for compulsive shopping is acknowledging that you might have a problematic shopping tendency, accepting the need to change, and being open to receiving help for your mental health condition.

Consider the following tips to manage compulsive spending or overcome compulsive buying disorder:

  1. Take a limited amount of cash when you go shopping and avoid carrying cards and online payment methods.
  2. Bring a friend or family member along with you when you visit a store.
  3. Uninstall online shopping apps on your phone and refrain from subscribing to email/message notifications for sales.
  4. Try occupying yourself with a hobby or interest.
  5. Consider seeking help from mental health professionals if you are struggling with compulsive shopping tendencies.


We all experience the urge to spend on certain things at some point in our lives. However, untreated compulsive buying disorder plunges us into financial and social difficulties. Therefore, timely awareness and control over such purchasing tendencies are essential to avoid harmful consequences.

At A Glance

  1. Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is a mental health condition in which a person experiences the persistent, frequent, and uncontrollable urge to shop.
  2. It is also known as shopping addiction.
  3. Such behaviors are triggered by negative emotions related to sadness and stress.
  4. Such a tendency can result in financial difficulties, stress, and poverty.
  5. The mental health effects of CBD also include depression, anxiety, guilt, anger issues, hoarding disorder, etc.
  6. CBD can be addressed with behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are compulsive buying disorder and shopping addiction the same?

Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is also known as shopping addiction, referring to a mental health condition characterized by the persistent, excessive, impulsive, and uncontrollable purchase of products.

2. What is the difference between compulsive buying disorder and OCD?

Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is considered to be on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum but is specific to buying. CBD involves people shopping excessively or chronically thinking about buying things without actually making the purchases. OCD-related buying behavior, on the other hand, is characterized by an unhealthy obsession over mental possessions.

3. What is the difference between compulsive shopping and hoarding?

Compulsive shopping is characterized by the persistent, impulsive, and uncontrollable urge to purchase products. On the other hand, hoarding is a behavior characterized by the accumulation of material possessions, along with difficulty in discarding excessive clutter.

4. How to stop compulsive shopping?

The first step to managing compulsive shopping involves acknowledging that you may have a problem and seeking support.

5. Is compulsive buying disorder real?

Compulsive buying disorder is a real and serious psychological disorder that affects 1 in 20 adults worldwide. However, it has not been included as an official diagnosis yet.

👇 References:
  1. Granero, R., Fernández-Aranda, F., Mestre-Bach, G., Steward, T., Baño, M., Del Pino-Gutiérrez, A., Moragas, L., Mallorquí-Bagué, N., Aymamí, N., Gómez-Peña, M., Tárrega, S., Menchón, J. M., & Jiménez-Murcia, S. (2016). Compulsive Buying Behavior: Clinical Comparison with Other Behavioral Addictions. Frontiers in psychology7, 914. [][][]
  2. Black D. W. (2007). A review of compulsive buying disorder. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA)6(1), 14–18. [][][]
  3. Müller, A., Brand, M., Claes, L., Demetrovics, Z., de Zwaan, M., Fernández-Aranda, F., Frost, R. O., Jimenez-Murcia, S., Lejoyeux, M., Steins-Loeber, S., Mitchell, J. E., Moulding, R., Nedeljkovic, M., Trotzke, P., Weinstein, A., & Kyrios, M. (2019). Buying-shopping disorder-is there enough evidence to support its inclusion in ICD-11?. CNS spectrums24(4), 374–379. []
  4. Sansone, R. A., Chang, J., Jewell, B., & Rock, R. (2013). Childhood trauma and compulsive buying. International journal of psychiatry in clinical practice17(1), 73–76. []
  5. Chauchard, E., Mariez, J., Grall-Bronnec, M., & Challet-Bouju, G. (2021). Buying-Shopping Disorder among Women: The Role of Vulnerability to Marketing, Buying Motives, Impulsivity, and Self-Esteem. European addiction research27(4), 294–303. []
  6. Müller, A., Laskowski, N. M., Trotzke, P., Ali, K., Fassnacht, D. B., de Zwaan, M., Brand, M., Häder, M., & Kyrios, M. (2021). Proposed diagnostic criteria for compulsive buying-shopping disorder: A Delphi expert consensus study. Journal of behavioral addictions10(2), 208–222. []
  7. Aboujaoude E. (2014). Compulsive buying disorder: a review and update. Current pharmaceutical design20(25), 4021–4025. []
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