When shopping goes beyond a necessity and is driven by impulses it can become a shopping addiction. In this article, we talk about shopping addiction, its causes, and potential solutions towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Words by Mayra Quispe Trejo


Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

Where does shopping addiction come from and how to make more  sustainable choices?

23 APRIL '22

8 minutes

When shopping goes beyond a necessity and is driven by impulses it can become a shopping addiction. In this article, we talk about shopping addiction, its causes, and potential solutions towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Words by Mayra Quispe Trejo

Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

Picture by Robin


Identifying shopping addiction 

Shopaholics and shopping addiction are terms that have often been glamorized in the fashion industry and popular culture, when overconsumption was trendy and normalized. Today, as mental health is becoming less taboo and more awareness is brought to this concept, it is time to focus on the “addiction” part of “shopping addiction” and understand the core of it.


According to the University of Cambridge, “people affected by shopping addiction are preoccupied with shopping and spending, and experience various moods of satisfaction in the process. They develop thoughts, urges, and preoccupations that prepare them for shopping and spending.

This happens even when they recognize that the behavior is clearly having a negative impact on their life”.


In clinical terms, shopping addiction is named a Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD), which can be characterized as “an irresistible, uncontrollable urge, resulting in an excessive, expensive and time-consuming retail activity that is typically prompted by negative affectivity and results in gross social, personal and/or financial difficulties”, according to Kellett and Bolton.


A shopping addiction or a compulsive buying disorder can be thus defined as an impulsive habit of buying things having as a consequence a feeling of distress and satisfaction, that is of course extremely temporary.


What may cause shopping addiction?

There can be physiological causes of shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder, for example, people get addicted to the feeling of pleasure the brain feels when shopping.

According to Ruth Engs, a professor in applied health sciences at Indiana University, when people develop shopping addictions, the brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive. Moreover, Engs claims that 10 to 15 percent of the population may be predisposed to these feelings.


The causes of a shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder can also be emotional. This means shopping compensates for a lack of approval, excitement, or because the person feels lonely, anxious, or depressed. These people seek in spending money a release from any kind of negative thought or feeling.


 Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

picture by Dids

Picture by Dids

Author of the picture


What are the effects?

The effects of a compulsive buying disorder are diverse. It could go from large credit-card debts, difficulties concentrating at work, and interpersonal problems with family and friends, but what about the effects it has on our planet?

Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

Picture by Ksenia


Shopping Addiction And Sustainability

Although we have seen that shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder can be caused by mental and physiological issues, an aspect that has triggered people to develop a shopping addiction and become shopaholics is the consumption culture, in other words, normalizing overconsumption. 


We have been so accustomed to producing, consuming, and shopping mindlessly that we have let shopping become a potential new addiction for people who have a void in their life, or who are mentally fragile and may have a tendency for compulsive behaviors. There goes a vicious cycle, as the more shopaholics there are, the more overconsumption and therefore the more overproduction. Moreover, the Ellen McArthur foundation conducted a study showing that in 2014, people were buying 60% more clothes than in 2000, which were only kept half as long. As a result, the impact of the fashion industry on the environment has ranked it second biggest polluter in the world, right behind the oil industry. The fashion industry is responsible for releasing 500 000 tons of microfibers in the ocean every year, which is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. A shopping addiction means more microplastics are released into the ocean, more clothes end up in landfills, and more workers are exploited.


Fortunately, some people are slowly experiencing a shift towards a new culture and becoming mindful consumers who progressively consider sustainability in the various aspects of their lifestyle.


How can we shift to a healthier way of shopping?

The first step is to be aware that you are having a shopping addiction problem and that you decide to stop that conduct. Then, the goal is to reeducate yourself by creating new conscious habits. Here we share six tips to reprogram your behavior towards healthier and sustainable shopping and consumption. 

 Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

Picture by Cottombro


Shopping Addiction And Sustainability

Although we have seen that shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder can be caused by mental and physiological issues, an aspect that has triggered people to develop a shopping addiction and become shopaholics is the consumption culture, in other words, normalizing overconsumption. 


We have been so accustomed to producing, consuming, and shopping mindlessly that we have let shopping become a potential new addiction for people who have a void in their life, or who are mentally fragile and may have a tendency for compulsive behaviors. There goes a vicious cycle, as the more shopaholics there are, the more overconsumption and therefore the more overproduction. Moreover, the Ellen McArthur foundation conducted a study showing that in 2014, people were buying 60% more clothes than in 2000, which were only kept half as long. As a result, the impact of the fashion industry on the environment has ranked it second biggest polluter in the world, right behind the oil industry. The fashion industry is responsible for releasing 500 000 tons of microfibers in the ocean every year, which is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. A shopping addiction means more microplastics are released into the ocean, more clothes end up in landfills, and more workers are exploited.


Fortunately, some people are slowly experiencing a shift towards a new culture and becoming mindful consumers who progressively consider sustainability in the various aspects of their lifestyle.


How can we work on controlling this disorder?

The first step is to be aware that you are having a shopping addiction problem and that you decide to stop that conduct. Then, the goal is to reeducate yourself by creating new conscious healthy habits. Here we share six tips to reprogram your behavior towards healthier and sustainable shopping and consumption. 



1.- Make a list of things you do need and are essential

Making a weekly or monthly list of what is necessary can help you to identify when you are making a compulsory or non-essential purchase.


 2.- Review your bank account status frequently

For the majority of shopaholics, checking their bank accounts is something they avoid doing, they prefer not knowing how much they are, in fact, spending. For that, it is recommendable to check your bank statement. You can also set limits on the ceiling for payments on our credit cards. This allows you to know when you exceed it and makes you also more aware of your compulsive buying disorder.


3.- Unsubscribe from newsletters and online shopping places

This can help to avoid promotional codes, discounts, and sales that can impulse you to buy. Sometimes, you do not want to shop but suddenly, an attractive message from a nice boutique pops up, giving a 40% discount, and you proceed to look for items you did not plan to buy. As a sustainable alternative, you can subscribe only to newsletters of companies that have a mindful approach towards consumption, and prioritize values instead of profit. At Staiy for example, we only use our newsletter for exclusive information, such as access to secret educational content, giving visibility to our brands, and avoiding spamming our clients. This newsletter is only sent to the closest members of our community who believe in our values.


4.- Delete shopping applications on your phone

Technological progress results in creating and using more mobile applications that can serve to buy things easily. These applications normally have our names, credit card numbers, and personal information, which makes it even easier to buy by just clicking a couple of buttons. Therefore, deleting shopping apps can help people with a compulsive buying disorder not be tempted.

Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

Picture by Carolina Grabowska

Shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorder is a mental health issue that makes people become shopaholics while increasing overconsumption

Picture by Karolina Grabowska



5- Shop less but better: quality over quantity

Shopping as an activity is deeply rooted in our culture and education. Thus, changing the way we consume can be achieved if we adopt a more holistic approach to fashion. This can be done by slowly incorporating mindful habits, such as asking ourselves, “do I absolutely need this?” before buying a new item or choosing quality and durability of the material over short-term trends.

Thankfully, this practice is becoming frequent. According to the State Retail Report carried out by the British Fashion Council and Clearpay in 2021, consumers are looking to make more responsible fashion choices by buying less but better. In that study, a survey was conducted showing that 65% of the respondents affirmed that making environmentally-conscious fashion purchases is either “very important” or “fairly important”. Also, 62% agreed that “ long term wearability is the most important factor when buying clothes”


6- Fall in love with your garments

As much as we should learn to value our garments, “falling in love” with them will take your shopping experience to a whole new level. Instead of buying a pair of boots because all your friends have it and you want to follow the new hype, buy the pair of boots that you fall in love with and that you know will last you a long time. Make your shopping selective and always think about your clothes as an investment. If you only buy the pieces you feel a strong connection with their story, design, or else, then your purchase was worth it. You can be sure that having a sentimental value will make you wear them many times and for a long time.

However, if you feel this compulsive buying disorder surpasses your efforts, please contact a professional. Remember that mental health is as well as important as physical health and looking for professional help is a great step toward seeking your well-being.


Shop from www.staiy.com

Shop from www.staiy.com

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