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What Is Compulsive Shopping

Although compulsive shopping is one of the less common relationship challenges that couples face, dealing with a partner who is a compulsive shopper feels similar to having an alcoholic or drug addicted partner. Compulsive shopping is a real relationship challenge that requires professional treatment, just like any other form of addiction. Although you probably hope to fix your partner’s compulsive shopping on your own, you have the greatest chance of success with professional intervention. We recommend that you get treatment for you and your partner because the effects of compulsive shopping impact both partners and the relationship.

Warning Sign: Your Partner Spends More than He or She Can Afford

Overspending happens to everyone occasionally. The draw of buying something that we really need or want, combined with poor financial planning, sometimes leads to overspending. Shopping addicts overspend more often than the average person because the addict always chases the emotional thrill he or she gets from shopping. Spending more than you can afford is not always a sign of shopping addiction, so look at the frequency of the overspending as well as how your partner reacts if you ask about his or her spending. Anyone would probably feel embarrassed if their partner asked them about spending too much money, but shopping addicts typically react with extreme anger or defensiveness.

Shopping Addicts Use Shopping as a Way to Cope with Emotional Difficulties

If your partner is a shopping addict, he or she will shop as a way to feel better. Most forms of addiction arise because the addictive behavior temporarily relieves emotional distress in the addict. Unfortunately, shopping too much or overspending usually causes more emotional distress, leaving your partner stuck in a vicious cycle of shopping to relieve emotional problems admittedly caused by shopping.

A Shopping Addict Partner Becomes Withdrawn and Secretive

As with other forms of addiction, the shopping addict feels ashamed and embarrassed by his or her behavior. Especially if you confront your addict partner, he or she may withdraw from you and become very secretive about his or her shopping. Your partner may try to justify the behavior or lie that the money he or she is spending is really for emergencies or necessities. Your best course of action is tough love. If you continue to fund and allow your partner to shop compulsively, then you enable the behavior and allow the addiction to continue. We recommend that you seek professional help to support you in changing your own behavior to stop enabling your partner.

When Shopping Interferes with Normal Life

The difference between a compulsive shopper and someone who just likes shopping is that the compulsive shopper shops in a way that interferes with everyday life. The compulsive shopper cannot function normally and shopping begins to interfere with relationships, work, and social activities. If the addict does not get help for the addictive behavior, his or her life becomes hard to manage and he or she feels out of control. Even when the compulsive shopper recognizes that his or her shopping habits are unhealthy, the shopper cannot resist the urge to shop, making a shopping addiction one of the most expensive addictions.

If Your Partner Constantly Thinks About Shopping, He or She Might Be an Addict

Shopping addiction occupies almost all the addict’s free time and thoughts. When a person cannot stop thinking or talking about shopping, that usually signals addiction. Addicts think and talk about shopping, even when they are not shopping and when there is nothing that they truly need or want to buy. The addict’s thoughts about the addictive behavior become so overwhelming that the addict often cannot have meaningful thoughts or conversations about topics unrelated to shopping.


If you or someone you love is a compulsive shopper, consider turning to as experienced, trained Cuppls therapist  for help addressing the issue and healing your relationship.


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