According to a study published in 2015 in the American Journal of the Society for the Study of Addictions, one out of 20 people living in developed countries may exhibit compulsive buying behavior. Young women are increasingly showing signs of shopaholism.
The recognition that you are a shopaholic is not to alarm anyone. It is not a reason to see a doctor. But a serious mental disorder may be also hidden behind it. Let’s see when the passion for shopping becomes an addiction and how to recognize it:
Illness or Habit?
Shopaholism is actively discussed in the 21st century but its signs were noticed much earlier. The German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin and his Swiss colleague Eigen Bleiler explored this psychological feature in the late 19th century. It was they who proposed the medical term oniomania.
More than a century has passed and doctors are in no hurry to recognize shopaholism as a health disorder. This phenomenon is discussed at psychiatric conferences, studied and everything is moving to the point that doctors will soon recognize shopaholism as a disorder. A UK-based group of psychiatric healthcare institutions The Priory has added such addiction to its list of treatable conditions.
The problem with recognizing oniomania as a psychiatric disorder is that it is a socially acceptable form of addiction, unlike drug addiction or alcoholism. In our society, shopaholism is regarded more as a fun female habit than as a serious mental problem. This topic is often comedically showed in mass media, which serves as a signal that there is nothing to worry about.
Meanwhile, the consequences of oniomania can be no less devastating than from other addictions. The feeling of the constant need to buy again and again leads to debt, problems in relationships with relatives, and emotional exhaustion of the shopaholism victim.
How to Recognize a Shopaholic?
Impulsive shopping differs from compulsive. In the first case, obsessive aggressive triggers like beautiful merchandising, profitable promotions and discounts push us to purchase. With compulsive shopping, the desire to buy something appears from the inside. So if you could not resist and made an unplanned purchase under the influence of attractive marketing offer then this is not yet an addiction.
When we think about buying something new, the level of the pleasure hormone dopamine raise in the body. In some people, the balance between this state and self-control is upset. If you are overloaded with work, a feeling appears that you deserve pleasure. Relying on the purchase as the surest source of positive emotions, you turn the desire “to please yourself with something” into a constant mental response to stress. This is when shopaholism appears.
There are several ways to recognize shopaholism as an addiction and not just your favorite pastime. The purchase itself does not matter to the shopaholic. Such a person is attached to the buying process and not to the purchased items and may have unopened goods at home, clothes with labels that have never been worn, several items with the same purpose.
Another alarming signal is when a person spends most of the time on online store sites looking at goods. An attempt to hide their purchases from relatives and financial conditions are also the features of shopaholism. An addicted person can make sudden unmotivated gifts to friends and acquaintances to get rid of things bought under the influence of addiction.
How to Treat Shopaholism?
Psychologist Dr. Catherine Jansson-Boyd says that there is no clear treatment plan for oniomania because there is no clear definition of this disease and generally accepted diagnostic criteria. The same methods are used for treating patients with shopaholism as are used for alcohol or drug addiction treatment. It can be a cognitive-behavioral or dialectic behavioral therapy and drugs with serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
The shopaholic lives in each of us and if you feel that you often visit some online store without a specific purpose which results in the purchase all kinds of unneeded items, try to adhere to the following rules to fight against shopaholism:
1. Find out Your Triggers
Even the most notorious shopaholics have moments in life when they don’t think about shopping. You need to find out what exactly encourages the shopaholic to satisfy their passion. It can be boredom, anger, or shame. Keep a journal and record your emotional state every time you break. This will help to objectively assess the problem.
2. Establish a Psychological Need That Is Satisfied With the Purchase
Shopping can give pleasure, help avoid pain, and distract from difficult and unpleasant thoughts. Analyze if it replaces your lack of entertainment or allows you to forget about something negative.
3. Find Support
You need to give an honest answer to all of the above questions. If you can not do it by yourself, ask someone from your family or friends to become your psychotherapist. Let them ask you these questions and then analyze the answers together. It is almost impossible to fight addiction alone. You always need someone who will support and direct you in the right direction.
4. Replace Shopping With Something
When you understand the causes of the problem, you can clearly determine what practice can become an alternative to your addiction. If boredom caused your addiction then bring more new entertainment into your life, sign up for dancing, or go skydiving. By filling your life with various daily activities, you will have neither time nor desire to make purchases.
Most cases of shopaholism can be attributed to a mild form. But if the neurosis is based on the socio-psychological factor (feeling of loneliness, rejection by society, low self-esteem), everything gets more complicated. In this case, special training, motivating books, or psychoanalysts can help.
5. Change the Information Environment Around You
Our thoughts are largely determined by the physical and information space in which we exist. Billboards, banners on the Internet, TV advertising are things that affect our thoughts and can act as catalysts for shopping. Stop watching TV, bypass shopping centers, install an ad blocker. These measures will reduce the number of consumer irritants that will be in your information field.