Doped Up on Shopping

When you're faced with something new or thrilling, the brain's pleasure centers get fired up. When you shop, everything you see is new.

By Willow Lawson, published on March 1, 2006 - last reviewed on August 7, 2008

Can shopping be an addiction?

While it's long been known that shopping tends to make people feel good, new research indicates that it has a direct effect on the brain's pleasure centers. It seems that a trip to Bloomingdale's can flood the brain with dopamine in a manner not dissimilar to that experienced by a drug addict getting a fix, or someone jumping from a plane for the first time, or someone tackling a new golf course.

That's because dopamine tends to get involved when someone is faced with something new, thrilling or challenging. A rack of designer dresses, apparently, holds the promise of the new and unfamiliar. And so a "shopping high" is the result. Which would also explain the somewhat empty feeling one has a few hours after making the purchase: The dopamine has, in effect, receded.