Comfort shopping, otherwise known as retail therapy or compulsive shopping, is becoming a lot more common with all the advances in technology.  With the click of a button, you can have food, electronics, clothes, and many more items shipped right to your door.  Through the grieving process, it can be easy to find a hyper fixation to keep your mind off of things, and with the ongoing pandemic it has made it even easier to get lost in online shopping to distract you from the uncertainty in the world right now.

What are the types of shopping addiction?

 There are quite a few different types of shopping addictions.  Each can stem from emotional instability, but each come with their own set of challenges.

  • Bargain shopping – Shopping for items they don’t need just because they’re on sale
  • Compulsive shopping – Turning to shopping whenever they are in emotional distress
  • Trophy shoppers – Constantly looking for the biggest and best flashy items
  • Collectors – Not feeling complete until they have the entire set
  • Bulimic shopping – The process of buying and returning items

It can be difficult to detect a shopping addiction as not all of them look the same.  Hiding the purchases and receipts can make it hard to keep track of their spending, and bulimic shopping can be even harder to trace with the constant rotation of purchases and returns.


Understanding the cycle and where it comes from

As someone goes through the grieving process, many people tend to isolate themselves.  Access to the internet and television (not to mention targeted ads) fuels the idea that purchasing these items will fill the emptiness that they are feeling and will continue to impulse buy things when the purchases don’t alleviate their grief.  While many people can shop without issue, for some it can become an addiction.

People who struggle with shopping addiction often go through a cycle on when they binge shop.  It can be when they are stressed, grieving, depressed, angry, or anxious.  Their brain becomes addicted to the dopamine and endorphins that are being released while shopping and they can end up craving that rush.  This can become a hard cycle to break that can affect relationships, credit, financial stability, and much more.  Often times after the shopping has been done there can be a period of buyer’s remorse and shame from spending so much money and can lead to even more spending to cover up these feelings.

People with a shopping addiction often spend money that they do not have which creates an even bigger problem.  It may seem innocent, unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, but excessive spending can and will create life-long problems.  Finding the root of their compulsion is the first step in trying to identify why they are turning to shopping to mask their emotions, periods of grief, or mental health issues.  Some cases may need to seek professional help to end their compulsive shopping, as recovery without help is very difficult to navigate on their own and a full recovery may be otherwise unattainable.

Steps to end the cycle of overspending


  • Seek professional help – Many times shopaholics don’t know why they overspend. Seeking the help of a professional could help them pinpoint where it all started and what triggers their spending sprees.
  • Cut up all credit cards – In these situations, credit cards can do a lot of harm. Credit cards make it easier to spend money that they do not have, therefore wrecking their credit score and preventing them from buying things they actually need like a house or a car.  Paying in cash or with a debit card makes them more accountable and they are only able to spend money that they physically have.
  • Set a budget – Making sure that their money is going to the correct places first, such as bills and savings and setting aside designated cash to go towards big ticket items is a healthy way to set boundaries and still be able to purchase things for themselves.
  • Write a shopping list and sticking to it – It can be difficult to shop in person and not make impulse purchases. Sticking to a list is a great way to plan out their expenses and leave little room for error.
  • Delete shopping apps – Apps such as Door Dash and Amazon make it extremely easy to overspend. Having a friend or relative delete these apps and password protect their app store makes it harder to impulse buy.

In summation, comfort shopping while coping with loss or illness can be a crippling addiction to have.  Overcoming this addiction can be very difficult without the right resources and mindset, especially with all the technology we have today that makes it so easy.  Acknowledgement is the first step to a healthier lifestyle and sticking to a plan is the best way for shopaholics to overcome their addiction.  Counseling is a great tool to ensure that their addiction won’t resurface in the future and can help identify undiagnosed mental health issues or emotional distress.  A supportive group of family and friends can also make a huge difference in helping them hold themselves accountable and create a healthier life for themselves.

Compulsive shopping, driven by grief, is one of many issues that can arise out of the bereavement process when not properly approached. Become a member of The American Academy of Bereavement today to find discover resources to help guide those dealing with their grief.