Compulsive Buying Behaviour is characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behaviour that leads to distress or impairment. Most individuals with this behaviour disorder complain of preoccupation with shopping, prepurchase tension or anxiety, and a sense of relief following the purchase. It is associated with mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, OCD, avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and other disorders of impulse control.

Individuals who have compulsive buying disorder are often struck with an irresistible and overpowering urge to purchase goods in spite of negative consequences.

Common characteristics/symptoms of compulsive buying include

  • Difficulty resisting the purchase of unneeded items
  • Financial difficulties because of uncontrolled shopping
  • Preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items, problems at work, school, or home because of uncontrolled shopping,
  • Spending a great deal of time researching coveted items and/or shopping for unneeded items.
  • Spending more than they can afford
  • Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry or depressed
  • Shopping as a way to feel less guilty about a previous shopping spree
  • Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
  • Losing control of the shopping behaviour

Common risk factors include

  • Emotional deprivation in childhood
  • Inability to tolerate negative feelings
  • Need to fill an inner void – empty and longing inside
  • Excitement seeking
  • Approval seeking
  • Perfectionism
  • Impulsive and compulsive
  • Need to gain control

Compulsive buying behaviour if left unchecked and untreated can lead to relationship problems including divorce, social isolation, financial problems, including excessive debt and bankruptcy, depression and/or anxiety while worsening of co-incident disorders such as substance use disorder.

Case Study

40year old female living with her family, where in husband is busy with work and tours, children busy their studies so to overcome her sense of loneliness she started compulsively shopping online from many years now. Her shopping increases if she is happy or upset, she continuously browsed and shortlisted items on online sites, her payments are all online, by cards and payment applications. Despite trying to control her urges she has not been successful. Due to her habits is often cause of dispute with her husband and other family members which has led her to seek treatment.

 Intervention through pharmacological treatment, behaviour therapies, family therapy and lifestyle management.