Compulsive spending is a problem that occurs when a person has an obsession with buying and shopping that has negative effects on their life.  In its extreme form it can be diagnosed as Compulsive Buying Disorder.  This disorder has serious financial repercussions but can also affect a person’s social and personal life.


  • Presence of another mood or anxiety disorder
  • Intrusive thoughts about shopping
  • Spending money as a coping mechanism
  • Fighting with a significant other about spending
  • Feeling a rush when spending money
  • Feeling guilt or regret after spending
  • Lying about spending
  • Going into debt to support overspending


People who engage in compulsive spending tend to use it as a coping mechanism.  When faced with uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and depression they will feel the need to go shopping.  In this case, spending money provides a brief reprieve from negative emotions.  Living in a materialistic society can add to and agitate the problem, but causes are likely deeper.  Compulsive spenders will tie their self-esteem and self-worth to their possessions, showing a fundamental issue in their identity that they attempt to reconcile with materialism.


The most obvious consequence of compulsive spending is financial, so financial counseling can be an important first step.  Psychotherapy will show this person that they are shopping to fill a void or to avoid negative feelings.  Due to the prevalence of the problem there are groups where sufferers can openly share their stories with likeminded people.

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