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You can overcome your compulsive buying and shopping

Expert help and what you need to know

Is Compulsive Buying Ruining Your Life?

“Not why the addiction but why the pain.”
― Gabor Maté

Buying food, clothing and other items we need is part of everyday life. However, there are many people who find the simple act of shopping takes on a dangerous focus.

Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is an obsessive behavior that can cause real struggles for individuals, couples and families. It happens when someone feels the uncontrollable urge to shop and buy things, even when there may be no need for the items s/he purchases.

People living with CBD spend an excessive amount of time and money shopping, which almost always leads to emotional, social and financial difficulties.


While the popular idea of “retail therapy” may suggest that shopping can soothe our feelings when we’re having a bad day, CBD actually creates bad feelings that in the end, are impossible to ignore. This pattern affects around 6 percent of the population, often emerging in the late teens to early twenties. Around 80% of those affected are women, but many men suffer from this destructive disorder as well.

Studies show that CBD follows a defined pattern that usually involves 5 distinct experiences.

  1. Making impulse purchases. Compulsive shoppers buy things they don’t necessarily need. They also try to conceal their shopping habits from others. This often results in hidden stashes of clothes, shoes and other items that pile up as the constant stream of purchases continues. Compulsive buyers sometimes turn into hoarders later in life as purchases accumulate over time.
  2. Experiencing “buyer’s high.” Compulsive shoppers feel a rush of excitement when they buy things. This sensation doesn’t stem from owning the new items, but from the act of buying them. The feeling is often experienced when the person sees a desirable item and thinks about buying it, whether the shopping takes place inside a store or online. Experts say that this temporary high can be addictive, leading shoppers to seek more and more experiences that lead to the same euphoric feeling. 
  3. Shopping to avoid other negative emotions. Experts say that compulsive shoppers are seeking to fill an emotional void such as loneliness, lack of control or low self-esteem. For someone struggling with CBD, a negative mood caused by an argument or a frustrating situation may trigger an urge to shop. But the calming effect is temporary. Soon, the compulsive shopper feels even worse than before. 
  4. Feelings of guilt and remorse. CBD sufferers feel irresponsible and out of control when they see the effects of their behavior. When the thrill wears off, they may scramble to return unwanted items or hide them away. The result is often a vicious cycle, with painful feelings pushing the compulsive shopper to seek another “fix” by purchasing something else. 
  5. Using credit cards to avoid the pain of paying. Purchasing items with credit cards allows us to focus on the positive aspects of what we’re buying while insulating us from the pain of paying. This may be why Compulsive Buying Disorder is only common in countries with established credit systems and consumer-focused cultures.


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People who suffer from Compulsive Buying Disorder often face other mental health difficulties. For example, shopping sprees are a known symptom of the mania experienced by people who live with bipolar disorder. CBD has also been associated with depression, eating disorders and other patterns that involve poor impulse control.

Compulsive shopping often runs in families, and researchers have documented that family members who deal with CBD often face other mood and substance use disorders. This may make it even harder for individuals to seek help, since the pattern may be a familiar one – and the dangers may not seem clear until the pain becomes impossible to bear.


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Compulsive buying can cause serious harm to your relationships, your working life and your financial health. You or your loved one may need professional help if … 

  • You feel a frequent, strong urge to go shopping online or in stores.
  • You go shopping even when you really don’t need anything.
  • You feel motivated to shop when you are bored, anxious, angry or sad.
  • You spend a lot of time researching sale prices, new styles and places to shop.
  • You plan out your shopping trips, thinking about what to wear and what credit cards you will use.
  • You feel intensely excited while you’re shopping, and the actual act of buying things feels great.
  • You tend to shop alone or only with those who share your intense love of shopping.
  • You don’t always spend a lot of money – in fact, you may prefer shopping in thrift stores or visiting garage sales.
  • Later on, you feel embarrassed or guilty about the purchases you’ve made, often leading you right back into shopping mode.
  • To deal with guilt and shame – not to mention the practical problems of storing what you buy – you may hide or return purchases, sell the items or even give them away.
  • You pay only the minimum on your credit cards, but you keep adding to the balances, and you find it hard to resist new credit offers.
  • Your spouse or family is affected by the strain on your finances and the amount of time you spend shopping (which means time away from them).
  • Even if you want to stop, you can’t seem to change the pattern.

Don’t wait until these problems spin out of control.

Reach out to the professionals at SunCloud Health today for effective, compassionate treatment that will help you get your life back.


Get effective treatment now
(866) 729-1012 Or click here to send a secure message.


At SunCloud Health, we know that facing the issue of compulsive shopping requires great courage. You may feel overwhelming fear as you think about reaching out for help. We are ready to provide immediate and confidential support for you or someone close to you who is suffering from Compulsive Buying Disorder.

Our skilled, experienced team will meet with you to learn about your unique situation and needs. We will design a personal treatment plan to help you see the patterns within your shopping behaviors more clearly. Treatment may involve medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of these and other therapeutic elements.

As noted earlier, your compulsive shopping habits may be linked to other mental health conditions that have been overlooked until now. The SunCloud Health team has extensive expertise in helping people who are facing dual or multiple diagnoses. We will take time to evaluate your situation carefully – because our goal is to treat you as a whole person, not simply a set of symptoms.

Don’t wait. Get the help you need today.


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Emily Long discusses how patients benefit from an integrative treatment approach and how that contributes to a more effective treatment experience at SunCloud Health.


As an outpatient treatment center, SunCloud Health is in an ideal position to support you for as long as you agree our services are useful to you. With multiple levels of outpatient care, you may decide to stay connected through one of our aftercare outpatient groups – or you may want to continue seeing one of our individual therapists.  We are here to provide continuous, caring support for your recovery journey.

Though we understand fully that you don’t want to spend your life in treatment, we also know from experience that a lifetime commitment to wellness is the foundation of your well-being over the long term. We will work with you to maintain a healthy outlook, which means achieving balance, honesty, and health — physical, emotional and spiritual. Our goal is to create a care plan that you can take with you forever, wherever you may go.


Dr. Marcia Nickow, Psy.D., CADC, CGP shares her thoughts on hope for recovery at SunCloud Health.


Chris Stewart, MD. Board Certified Psychiatrist answers, does addiction treatment work?

The treatment team at SunCloud gets it. They practice what they preach, they are compassionate and they are true professionals.  They all understand what I am going through and they have guided me from a hopeless place of disease to recovery and a life worth living.  Most importantly they have helped me realize that I am worth something and that I don’t have to use in order to cope with life and all that comes with it.  Recovery can be amazing.  Trust me.  The work is not easy and it is totally worth it!   Today I am alive.

~ SCH patient

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