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The psychology of shopping addiction

https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/psychology-shopping-addiction

bigthink.com

The psychology of shopping addiction
Shopping might be one of the most socially acceptable addictions, but it's still a very powerful one that up to 6% of our population struggles with. Shopping addiction is a predominantly female problem, with around 90% of shopaholics being women.

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Different types of "shopaholics"

  • Compulsive shoppers: Buying when they are feeling emotional distress.
  • Trophy shoppers: They are always looking for the next great item.
  • Flashy shoppers: They desire the attention that comes with having nice, new things.
  • Bargain shoppers: They purchase things through sale, even if they don't need or desire it.
  • Bulimic shoppers: They continually buy and return items.
  • Collective shoppers: They find emotional value and wholeness in having a complete set of things.

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Socially acceptable

Socially acceptable

Shopping can be socially acceptable because consumerism is continually pushed on us in the forms of posters, adverts, and signs.

Shopping is also a way of life: You need food and clothing from stores. Even if you try to stop compulsive buying by avoiding the stores in person, there is still a world of online shopping.

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Addiction vs compulsion

Addiction describes trying something, becoming emotionally and physically dependent on it, and then becoming psychologically and physically addicted to it. People who struggle with addiction have explained feeling euphoric, elevated, happy, complete, and whole when they partake in their addiction. Compulsion refers to a specific, intense urge to do something. People who struggle with a compulsion explain feeling immense relief and relaxation from completing behaviors that they feel compelled to do.

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Compulsive shopping

  • A preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items, taking you away from daily responsibilities such as work duties and home life.
  • Spending much of your time shopping or doing intense research on items you wish to buy.
  • Extreme difficulty resisting the urge to purchase something, even if it's not needed or desired.
  • An elevated sense of self-worth or euphoria when making purchases.
  • Continuing a shopping spree or unnecessary purchasing despite negative consequences such as debt or financial trouble.
  • Problems at work or with loved ones due to your uncontrollable shopping urges.
  • Deep satisfaction and calm state after making a purchase.

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A neurological explanation

Up to 6% of the population suffers from shopping compulsion or addiction.

When you consider a new purchase, you're anticipating a reward.
Once the purchase is made, the reward pathway of your brain lights up, and dopamine floods your system. Once it wears off, you crave it again. That is why it makes sense that we shop for celebrating and for feeling good.

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Compulsion vs. Addiction

A compulsion is an overwhelming desire to do something. An addiction is a physical or chemical dependence on a substance or behaviour.

Two key differences between compulsion and addiction:

  • Pleasure. Compulsive behaviours rarely result in feelings of pleasure. People with addictions desire the substance or behaviour because they expect to enjoy it.
  • Awareness: People with compulsive disorders are typically aware of their behaviours and bothered by the lack of logical reason for doing them. People with addictions are unaware of or unconcerned about the negative consequences of their actions.

Compulsion vs. Habit

  • Habits are repeated actions that must be consciously initiated. Eventually, the process becomes subconscious and automatic: for example, when you are brushing your teeth.
  • Unhealthy habits can become a compulsion or even an addiction. For example, the good habit of regular exercising can become an unhealthy compulsion or addiction when done in excess.

The difference between a compulsive behaviour and a habit is the ability to choose to do them.

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Shopping Addiction

Shopping Addiction

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Overspenders

People do not even know that they are addicted to shopping and are unable to understand the problem.

Their confused relationship with money is looked upon by them as a symptom of the other problems of their lives. Many victims feel lost and are unable to control themselves out of the addiction consciously.

Warning Signs Of Shopping Addiction

  • Shopping due to being angry, sad or disappointed.
  • Shopping being the reason for problems or chaos.
  • Having arguments with others regarding spending habits.
  • Not leaving home without the credit card.
  • Buying on credit what cannot be bought by cash.
  • The act of spending causing anxiety and euphoria.
  • Shopping with a gambling mindset.
  • Feeling ashamed, embarrassed or guilty about buying useless stuff.
  • Lying and juggling bills and accounts to be able to spend more.

Rewards and dopamine

Rewards and dopamine

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Why video games are so addictive

Games are enticing because you might win but you might not. And video games do it so efficiently, because they ride the tide of computer technology. The balance between winning and losing is continuously adjusted, according to how well you’re doing, as measured in hits and misses, gains and losses, moment by moment. The sweet spot knows you, it finds you. It adjusts to you.