Profile of a compulsive spender

Do you identify with the classic traits of the shopaholic?


When the crash of buyer's remorse overwhelms the thrill of the purchase that 'spot of retail therapy' could be something a little more serious. With store cards and credit cards easy to come by, it can be tricky to resist the lure of shopaholism.

What is compulsive spending?

Compulsive spending is what psychologists call a ‘pathology’, an addiction without a drug. Typically, compulsive spending conceals unhappiness or depression – sufferers spend money to improve their confidence and give themselves a lift but in reality the buzz wears off leaving them feeling guilty and low. Like gambling it can lead to serious financial problems. If you’re worried about your spending habits or those of a loved one, see our checklist of warning signs:

Unconcerned with prices - not interested in discounts, but visits sales and collect coupons as an excuse to visit the shops more frequently

  • Anxiety and anticipation before shopping trip

  • Hiding purchases

  • Going out for 'one pair of shoes' and coming back with ten

  • Depressed or angry when unable to shop

  • Frequent returning or exchanging - addicted to the process, not the purchase

  • Multiple and maxed out credit cards

  • Buying for others - kind, but an easy excuse to shop

  • Shopping trip necessary to celebrate any event, no matter how small

  • Shopping extremes - might be tight with spending on groceries but splash the cash on designer clothes – habits which may vary depending on moods.

How to regain control

It's important to get help but the first step in the right direction is destroying credit cards to make the actual act of shopping much harder. Shocking yourself or someone else into realising just how much you are spending by calculating interest fees on top of purchases can also be the start to getting on the road to recovery. Once the problem has been admitted, help can be sought by receiving counselling and speaking to someone about how to get your finances back under control.

Help and advice

Debtors' Anonymous offers a 12-step plan and peer support for those affected by debt. National Debtline is a free advice service for anyone concerned about debt. Call 0808 808 4000.