Online Shopping Addiction – Is it a mental illness?

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 27th January 2023

Online Shopping Addiction – Is it a mental illness?

‘I have an online shopping addiction’ isn’t a statement that we commonly hear, especially when considering the range of further familiar behavioural addictions. However, there are people, across the globe who live with an online shopping addiction.

Although this brain illness, combining both addiction and an impulse control disorder may be new to a large proportion of individuals, it has been around for decades. However, through the emergence, adoption and normalisation of online shopping and e-commerce, compulsive shopping habits have materialised.

There are so many concerns for those suffering from an online shopping addiction. From the severity of a dual diagnosis, where mental health issues are regular, to the financial loss which can happen, low quality of life is likely.

Although a standalone diagnosis of an online shopping addiction currently doesn’t exist, it is important that those with the symptoms do source professional support and treatment. Through ongoing research, the aim is to acknowledge compulsive shopping as a standalone brain condition. Yet, until that is achieved, it is vital that those who do experience it, consider their behaviours, their quality of life, their future.

Here’s everything you need to know about online shopping addiction, why it’s increasing, the significant concerns, and how to treat the dual diagnosis. If you’re suffering, here at Cassiobury Court, we are available to support you.


What is online shopping addiction?

As highlighted above, online shopping addiction falls between dependence and an impulse control disorder. It combines processes and impacts of both conditions, all formed around online shopping.

Here is where individuals will have a reliance, they will build up an addiction to online shopping, spending large sums of money, and purchasing unnecessary items, no matter the consequence. The thrill of purchasing, of receiving new items fuels the compulsive behaviours. However, as reality sets in, as they do the math, addictive side effects do appear around online shopping, known to correlate with mental health symptoms.

Online shopping addiction is new to many individuals. Some will disregard it as a brain illness, believing that an activity such as shopping is voluntary. However, just like drug or gambling addictions, shopping is used as a coping strategy, as a crutch; also classifying it as a brain illness.

If you’re noticing a significant increase in your online shopping activity, if you’re experiencing the common signs and symptoms, or if you believe someone that you love is shopping compulsively, reaching out for addiction help is encouraged.

Online shopping addiction symptoms to look out for include:

  • Purchasing new items every hour or day
  • Purchasing unnecessary items, without control
  • Spending money without considering the consequences
  • Spending large sums of money which cannot be justified or supported
  • Experiencing mental health issues
  • Finding that online shopping acts as a coping mechanism
  • Experiencing negativity, linked to online shopping  Erratic and impulsive shopping habits

    Are you addicted to online shopping? If so, reach out for our guidance here at Cassiobury Court.


    Why are online shopping addictions increasing?

    Online shopping addictions are increasing, down to the advance exposure and accessibility. Down to virtual shopping platforms, shopping can take place by simply logging on and clicking a button, with our homes as the location.

    When visiting a physical shop, this can take more time and effort. Our brains can connect the dots and recognise the damage of excessive shopping. However, online, every single e-commerce store is easily accessible, on a global scale, from a single device. This accessibility and scale have turned a pastime into compulsive shopping habits.

    It’s also important to note that online shopping processes, online marketing and online payment tools have also enabled and aggravated the symptoms of an online shopping addiction. Being bombarded with marketing messages, motivations and deals can trigger compulsive shopping habits. Payment tools allowing for credit to be used can justify purchasing. The ease of a transaction makes online shopping a relaxing, personal and thrilling experience.

    Down to the growth and adoption of e-commerce, the scale of online shopping addiction can advance significantly, which we’ve now witnessed across the globe.


    The concerning factors of online shopping addiction

    The concerning factors of online shopping addictions focus on the mental health association. As both addictions and impulse control disorders are brain illnesses, vast cognitive changes are common. A rollercoaster of emotions is also likely to be experienced when living with an online shopping addiction.

    When purchasing items, the characteristics of impulse control disorders are aggravated. Impulsive and irrational behaviours are present, fuelling the shopping experience. However, over time, this thrill will reduce, resulting in the characteristics of an addiction.

    As there is a strong link between addiction and mental health issues, those living with an online shopping addiction are at greater risk of experiencing depression and anxiety. It’s also vital to note that as an addiction develops, financial problems are very likely. Significant debt can develop, which is known to fuel further unhealthy habits, such as substance abuse.

    The worry is that enabling this behaviour, through a lucrative sector, mental health rates will also increase, resulting in a dual diagnosis. Here is where additional treatment will be required to tackle both conditions. Although rehabilitation can be achieved, greater effort and time is required to control the complexity of a dual diagnosis.


    How to stop online shopping

    In order to stop an online shopping addiction, both self-help tips and professional treatment will be recommended.

    To help yourself, start by cancelling your streams of credit. Many shoppers will view credit as fake money, soon racking up a large bill. Disassociating yourself from the easy shopping experience will alleviate your initial symptoms.

    Additionally, aim to focus on healthy and positive lifestyle choices and routines, while also developing your interest elsewhere through further hobbies. Although this may be easier said than done, focusing your energy elsewhere will help to transfer your impulsive energy.

    Through professional online shopping addiction treatment, therapy will be utilised to work through the cognitive link to compulsive shopping. Mental health issues will also be worked through to tackle a dual diagnosis. This combination is very important to ensure that the key motivator, fuelling an addiction can be identified and diminished.

    If you’re experiencing the symptoms of an online shopping addiction, we encourage you to reach out for professional addiction help. Without this step, highly concerning encounters, surrounding financial problems, mental health issues and further addictions are likely.

    Online shopping addiction is a mental illness. It should be taken seriously.

    John Gillen

    John Gillen - Author Last updated: 27th January 2023

    John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.