Why Some Become Addicted to Shopping

Learn what causes people to become addicted to shopping. Plus risk factors for being addicted to shopping.

People who are addicted to shopping get a high from an addictive behavior like shopping. Brain chemicals kick in, making the person feel good.

No one knows what causes someone to become addicted to shopping or engage in other addictive behaviors like alcoholism, drug abuse, and gambling addiction. Evidence suggests that some people, maybe 10%-15%, have a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior. That, coupled with an environment in which the particular behavior is triggered, can result in the addiction.

Addicted to Shopping: How Your Brain Can Fool You

While the causes of addictions like shopping addiction or gambling addiction remain uncertain, why addicts continue their destructive behaviors is better understood. Some individuals get a high from shopping (or any addictive behavior) which causes the sufferer to lose control and buy many items for which they have no need. Endorphins and dopamine, naturally occurring opiate receptor sites in the brain, get switched on, and the person feels good, and if it feels good they are more likely to do it -- it's reinforced and soon they are addicted to shopping.

Compulsive shopping seems to be associated with:

  • Emotional deprivation in childhood
  • Inability to tolerate negative feelings, pain, loneliness, boredom, depression, fear, anger
  • Need to fill an inner void - empty and longing inside
  • Excitement seeking
  • Approval seeking
  • Perfectionism
  • Genuinely impulsive and compulsive
  • Need to gain control

Risks Factors for Becoming Addicted to Shopping

Marketing professor and researcher, Kent Monroe, of The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, notes that "compulsive buying is an addiction that can be harmful to the individual, families, relationships. It is not just something that only afflicts low-income people.” Monroe and his colleagues found compulsive buying was linked to materialism, reduced self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and stress. People addicted to shopping had positive feelings associated with buying, and they also tended to hide purchases, return items, have more family arguments about purchases and have more maxed-out credit cards. Kent says compulsive shoppers (shopaholics) also experience higher rates of family conflicts, stress, depression and loss of self-esteem.

You can find a short shopping addiction quiz here that measures symptoms of shopping addiction.


  • Shopaholics Anonymous

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 16). Why Some Become Addicted to Shopping, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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