Compulsive buying also known as shopping addiction gradually developed into a difficult problem in our modern materialistic society. In recent years, excessive and compulsive shopping has been increasingly placed by mental health experts within the behavioral addiction paradigm.
Compulsive shopping almost always includes the act of buying because window-shopping doesn’t yield the same ecstatic result.
How does shopping addiction develop?
Affecting a growing number of people, obsessive-compulsive behavior of shopping addiction generally cycles through four phases:
Anticipation: Persistent feelings and obsessive thoughts about one particular item or with a single action around shopping.
Preparation: Preparation and planning where to buy, how to go there and which credit cards to use
Shopping: The experience of shopping which generally includes intense feelings of exhilaration Spending: Fulfilling a purchase process after which there may be an overwhelming feeling of regret and guilt leading to feelings of sadness and depression.
What are the characteristics of a shopping behavior problem
People with shopping addiction have some common characteristics. These include:
- Impulse buying to the point where their shelves are filled with unopened items.
- Being secretive about their shopping trips
- Experiencing a rush of euphoria from purchasing the process rather than from owning the item
- Using shopping as a coping mechanism to numb emotional pain
- Urge for shopping triggered by stress factors such as low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness and other negative emotions
- Buying followed by feelings of remorse and guilt and remorse which in turn could trigger more shopping, making this as a vicious cycle
- Frequent use of credit card to post-pone the stress of paying the debt to the immediate gratification and the euphoria of purchasing experience
What are the most common purchases?
According to a 2007 study, the most common items purchased by compulsive shoppers are, starting with the most popular:
- Household items
- Music (compact discs)
What are the consequences of shopping addiction?
In addition to the economic costs associated with the buying problem, experts believe it to being a true mental health disorder. This is because the abnormal shopping behavior continues or even intensifies in spite of clearly noticeable negative consequences. The consequences may include:
- Mental agony and distress including guilt and remorse
- Too much time devoted to the buying process
- Overspending and going into debt
- Job-related problems due to online shopping
- Social problems as a result of excess spending, especially marital discord and divorce
What is the solution to the problem?
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the effectiveness of shopping addiction treatment. However, experts agree that addressing the underlying problem for which the person is using shopping as a coping mechanism is an important and effective action to control the behavior problem.