While some of us may enjoy the thrill of an occasional splurge or scoring a good deal, spending more than you bargained for during an annual holiday shopping spree doesn't automatically make you a shopaholic. But that thrill, what some shopaholics describe as a high, helps drive compulsive shoppers to want more -- excessive shopping, uncontrolled spending sprees and impulse buys are the defining characteristics of compulsive buying disorder.
Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) sufferers have a sense of excitement before a purchase, an inability to resist the urge to shop and a rush or sense of reward while spending, despite any negative consequences of their actions. CBD is considered an impulse-control disorder. Just as with other impulse-control disorders such as drug and alcohol addiction and pathological gambling, for many compulsive shoppers the "high"of the spending spree is followed by a low, where the powerful euphoric feelings are replaced with those of distress, shame and guilt.