Exploring Shopaholics Attitude and Behaviors: A dose, defense, or disorder?

Exploring Shopaholics Attitude and Behaviors: A dose, defense, or disorder?

Rajni Sharma1, Pooja Tyagi2, Umed Singh3, Amit Khatter4, Ananya Sharma5, Krishan Kumar6

1Play therapist, Child Psychology, Advance pediatric Centre, PGIMER, Chandigarh , 2Assistant Professor, Amity Institute of Behavioral & Allied Sciences, Amity University, Gwalior, MP, 3Professor, Dept of Psychology Central University Haryana, 4Trainee, Masters in Psychology, IGNOU  5Medical Officer MOVE Research Project, 6Asst Professor, Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER, Chandigarh.

Correspondence: Pooja Tyagi, e-mail id:


Shopaholism, also known as Compulsive Buying Disorder or Oniomania is a social problem described by strong urge to spend money and a voracious inclination to purchase things, commonly bringing about adverse outcomes. Shopaholism alludes to the persistent buying of undesirable/undesirable things even without necessity. The present study was descriptive qualitative in design, consisting of a few case studies based on semi structured interview of individuals high on shopaholism, consisting information about participants’. Before and after affect of shopping, motivation, causes and other related significant information regarding their shopping behavior was also explored. It was observed that their compulsory buying behavior was associated with psychological betterment rather than mere possession of purchased articles. Subject’s shopping behaviors range from buying for fun show off, approval seeking, elevate their mood to emotionally strained, stressed and depressed.

Keywords: Shopaholism, disorder, purchase, money, cases.



Days are gone when shopping was to use to do at the hour of need and when individuals use to do shop at period of scarcity. However, the current scenario especially about shopping has completely changed, not only in terms of taste of shopping but in terms of purpose too. Nowadays for some people, shopping is something that has become a piece of everyday life or a part of their complete existence. They feel a strong urge to shop every once in a while, even without necessity and capacity of purchasing things. Research have reported that although such kind of tendency may provide a momentary escape from the current reality and stress and in long terms it gives negative impacts.  

Kraepelin (1915) and Bleuler (1924) initially throw light on this kind of issues of shopping and added these in psychiatric literature, alluded to as oniomania or shopping mania. They explained it as a shopping which is indiscreet, unreasonable and uncontrollable in nature. It was contemplated as one of the different types of impulse disorders. Earlier research noticed that it was for most part of females who experiences shopping cravings. Personal attachment with objects may be one of the causes of indulging females more in shopping in comparison to males. 

Individuals battling with shopaholism regularly feel strong urges and cravings when they make buy things. Indeed, compulsive buying disorder is characterized by being not able to fight or resist the temptation to shop. Numerous individuals with shopping addictions make endeavors to quit shopping, and may momentarily succeed, just to continue overspending in the midst of stress. This can cause individuals to feel sad as they attempt to sort out some way to conquer shopping habit.


Study design was descriptive qualitative and subject’s narrations and dialogues were noted down to explore the subject’s attitude and behaviors towards shopping. A semi structured interview was conducted with the five participants who scored very high on shopaholism sub scale of affluenza (Tyagi and Shyam, 2019). After obtaining consent from the participants, a schedule was fixed as per their availability. Interview was conducted personally and each interview lasted for 45-60 minutes. Purpose of interview was explained to every participant and systematic approach was followed for data collection. Each participant was asked predesigned questions (i.e. what shopping means to you? How frequently you do shopping? What kind of stud you boy more? How useful those things are for you? How you feel before and after shopping? Do ou plan before going to shopping?) and about their shopaholic attitude and behavior, till their responses reached to saturation (Kvale,1996). Thereafter, thematic analysis was done by experts (Psychologists) and observed concepts were labeled.  


A 19 year old college girl admitted that she can not help from buying the new style outfits of an international brand arrived on a famous store of her city. She said she makes sure that she buy before her friends because she loves to keep the collection of clothes which her friends aren’t having. The girl also admitted that her expensive shopping caused a quarrel between her and her boyfriend a couple of times. She told that she always has to hide the true price of her shopping from her parents and she has to lie about her shopping to her family. The girl explained about the usage of her shopping that many of her dress are untouched even after a long time and many goes unused. Most of the clothes that were bought very enthusiastically, she started disliking them after a short time of buying them. “But even in that case i can’t share even a single item from my collection with anyone “, the girl said. 

In another case a 31 year housewife from a joint family who scored very high on shopaholism subscale of affluenza explained that however she never do shopping according to need because most of the time she never feel that she need to buy something. But still she keep doing shopping which include online shopping too. An interesting thing revealed by woman that she love to shop expensive items because it makes her sister in law jealous. She love to see her sister in law in that state because of her shopping, gives her pleasure and a sesne of satisfaction that her chioce is expensive one and not the ordinary. She admitted that when neighbors notice that delivery man frequently deliver items to their house, it makes me feel good and compelling. Flaunting her items to her friends gives her a sense of importance. 

25 years old college going man disclosed that he keep shopping every once in a while for her girlfriend. He confessed that visiting gift and clothing stores gives him a sense of power and as most of the sales staff now know him by his face and name, “They treat me specially every time they see me and it makes me feel a notable individual” he acknowledged. He explained that how he keep going in debt every now and then because of shopping. But gifting to sweetheart is another level of satisfaction which makes him doing more and more shopping. He said he do not buy much for himself but buying for others makes him feel better

A 34 year old female teacher confessed that she buy things in order to make herself feel good. It’s like a mood booster for her. “Whenever i feel down, i take myself for shopping” she admitted. She said she forget every tension while doing shopping and it’s like a therapy for her. She too admitted that most of her shopping go unused as most of the things she buys, are none of her use.  She said that she hides her shopping from husband as he do not appreciate the stuff she buy.  According to her it is one of her favorite leisure time activity to explore random shopping websites. 

A 27 year old woman told that shopping depends on occasion and mood. When there is an occasion like any kind of party then she chooses her dress, footwear, and matching jewelry particularly for that occasion. “I plan for that in advance” she added. She acknowledged that apart from this when she feels down, she go for shopping, mostly she prefer online shopping. She confessed that she feels doing shopping distract her from ongoing problems and it gives her relief and happiness when she places an order. “Whenever I’m about to get money or salary, I start planning in advance what to buy” she added. According to her, sometimes she just feel urge to spend money regardless of need of anything, so she go out and buy something. She added that 95% of her shopping is of her use and she rarely buy useless items or which go unused.


Obtained qualitative data was analyzed thematically by the researcher and It was observed that their compulsory buying behavior was associated with psychological betterment rather than mere possession of purchased articles. Subject’s shopping behaviors range from buying for fun show off, approval seeking, elevate their mood to emotionally strained, stressed and depressed. Emerged themes are 

Approval seeking: It is evident that when people feel lonely they seek happiness in market and interaction with sales people (Andreassen et al., 2015). Respondents were not seeking approval from their family and friends for possessed articles.

Poor impulse Control: People indulged as shopaholism find their shopping urges irresistible and are unable to control their impulse (Brook et al., 2015). They often look for great deals and ending buying unnecessary things and this gave them sense of power over others.

Being Materialistic: Shopaholics are more materialistic than normal buyers. They are not much interested in possession of bought articles (Granero et al., 2016). One of our subjects was just buying latest articles before her friends or relative. One subject, in order to make her sister in law jealous, kept buying unnecessary and expensive things. Emotional and psychological stressors: Emotional imbalance, stress and mood swings are found to be associated with shopaholism (Zhang et al., 2016). Respondents found shopping as mood elevator and enhancing their self- esteem.


A dependence on shopping can likewise be followed to the effect of person’s current circumstance or mood state. Nowadays people are overexposed to showcasing and publicizing contrivances by media that energize and advance a shopping and materialistic way of life, and shopping has become a significant side interest and lifestyle. It is accounted for that individuals begin building up an undesirable propensity for extreme shopping in their late teenagers and mid 20s. However the specific reason for this addiction isn’t clear, yet the results of studies have assisted analysts with distinguishing its connection to other addictive practices, for example, liquor, drugs, sex, and smoking. Shopaholism (otherwise called oniomania or urgent purchasing) is viewed as a fixation by some since it has numerous similitudes to these other grounded addictions, where a significant number of similar pieces of the cerebrum are initiated and a comparable encounter of elation is felt. Similarly as alcohol is the mishandled substance in alcohol abuse, money is the manhandled substance in a shopping compulsion.

There are many earmarks of being several types of shopaholism. There are some people who purchase almost every day, on the other hand there are some people who are episodic buyers who purchase in response of adverse or stressful life occasions (Tyagi and shyam, 2018; Christen et al., 1992; Faber et al, 1987). Research have shown that most of the shopaholics purchase things for themselves however there are few cases reported who make purchases solely for other people (Faber et al., 1987). For a number of purchases, shopping is a way of gaining recognition and approval (Tyagi & Shyam, 2019). This can happen in a few different ways: some shopaholics purchase only on ad deals and discount outlets and pride themselves on having a capacity to do good deal, it gives them a feeling of being great shopper which may make elevated acknowledgment among peers and provide a feeling of pride. Other shopaholics make purchase of high-tech products or the latest style and fashions (Tyagi and shyam, 2019). These individuals may accomplish acknowledgement among companions and neighbors. One shopaholic was interviewed who bought iPad costing an arm and a leg exhibited very little effect while discussing the use and need of that, finally it was found that getting recognition in peer group as most affluent was the motivation behind the purchase (Tyagi & Shyam, 2019). It can be concluded that shopaholics use shopping in form of a therapy which is relieving. Purchaser experiencing a loneliness were found to use shopaholism as a method for mitigating feelings of loneliness and isolation. Research discloses that individuals who experience the ill effects of compulsion get a surge of dopamine that is related with delight, when they can fulfill a hankering, for example, going on a shopping gorge. But unavoidably after the quick delight of an extraordinary shopping comes the aches of blame, disgrace, and frustration. Research suggest that shopaholics might be getting positive result and reinforcement for their shopping for a temporary period. shopping gives them relief from stress, increase positive feeling and improve their confidence and feeling of self-esteem as well as provides them break from sentiments of dejection and other negative emotions (Tyagi and Syam, 2019). These positive emotions give the inspiration to rehash the behavior with an end goal to continue shopping in the end getting to be operant conditioning when negative sentiments or situation repeat (Faber 1989).


Shopaholism is more than merely the deficiency of self control or will power – it is likewise a conduct issue that might be followed back to a person’s childhood. Studies show that shopaholics may have learned such practices at home or may have encountered maltreatment in their initial years. But, in any case, it’s important to keep in mind that rolling out any improvements needs help in such cases. It is troublesome, if certainly feasible, to conquer addiction without assistance. The correct consideration group, which can incorporate support from family members and friends, professional or counsellor or relatives, can help an individual to overcome shopaholism and understanding recuperation process. This is particularly significant when somebody encounters a setback in this regard. Rather than considering it to be a sign of failure, disappointment, or low self worth, an individual with the correct support and care can gain from it and can move ahead in journey to overcome shopaholism.


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Conflict of interest: None
Role of funding source: None 


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