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The psychology of shopping addiction

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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The psychology of shopping addiction

The psychology of shopping addiction

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

bigthink.com

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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.

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Rewards and dopamine
Rewards and dopamine

Our brains compute 3 things about reward: how much will we get, how soon will we get it, and how certain are we that we will in fact get it. 

And it’s when the probability of a re...

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.

A new disorder

The World Health Organization officially added a new disorder to the section on substance use and addictive behaviors :

The term "addiction"

Addiction can include:

  • Addiction as a moral transgression, like excessive drinking or drug use.
  • Addiction as a scientific disease, which characterize alcoholism and drug addiction as biological.
  • Colloquial violation, which applies the term to almost any fixation. 

The idea that someone can be addicted to a behavior, as opposed to a substance, remains debatable.

Arguments against gaming addiction
  • Excessive gameplay is a symptom of a larger problem, like anxiety or depression.
  • The fear of possible addiction arrises from moral panic about new technologies, not scientific research or clinical data.
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The reward system

The reward system in our brain exists to ensure we seek out what we need. If eating nutritious food or being smiled at pleases us, we try to secure more of these stimuli. However, seeking pleasure ...

Desire and pleasure

In 1986, a discovery was made that dopamine did not produce pleasure, but in fact, desire. While dopamine makes us want, pleasure comes from opioids and endocannabinoids ( a kind of marijuana produced in the brain), which paints pleasure on good experiences.

Potential clinical application

We cannot explain away our minds by brain mechanisms. Brain mechanisms are part of our minds.

Understanding that desire and dread, for instance, share the same brain operations, could help ease schizophrenia symptoms by restricting a particular dopamine neuron that produces fear.

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The brain can become addicted to productivity just as it can to other addiction sources, such as drugs, gambling, or shopping.

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What makes addiction to productivity complicated is that society tends to reward it - the more you work, the better. A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, but in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh the short-term benefits.

Addiction affects the brain's reward system. It results in compulsive behavior while disregarding harmful consequences.

Obsession with productivity

At the root of obsession with productivity is a fear of wasting time. Everything is seen as either productive or unproductive.

Buying groceries is seen as productive because you have to eat, while a hobby is viewed as unproductive. Productivity junkies are overly focused on a single aspect of their life. Potential sources of pleasure, such as spending time with loved ones, are very low on the list.

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Not Really an Addiction

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A set of people may be having a fixation with checking specific apps on the smartphone, like a gambling site or pornography.

Addiction Defined

The World Health Organization defines addiction as physical and behavioral dependence on a substance.

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The Start Of Online Shopping
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Online Shopping and The Smartphone Push
  • By 2017, Smartphone usage hit 80 percent worldwide, and online shopping apps became a common thing to use.
  • Since then, online shopping has been topping every sales chart, with Shopify providing the worldwide sales figure of USD 3.5 trillion in 2019.
  • A majority of stuff ordered online included electronics, books etc., with groceries not a huge priority, until this year.

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Price. Establish a low price or make it look like it is. Have promos or discounts.

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Hoarding
Hoarding

Severe hoarding afflicts about one in every fifty people.

Their compulsion causes the hoarders to suffer mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. Relationships ...

Hoarding is a type of OCD

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Hoarding is accompanied by varying levels of anxiety and often, depression as well. Peculiar commonalities among hoarders include severe emotional attachment to inanimate objects and extreme anxiety when making decisions.

Symptoms of a hoarding disorder

Hoarding can be just a personal preference, but it can be viewed as a disorder when that behavior starts to negatively impact daily functioning. Symptoms of a hoarding disorder:

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Anxiety and panic buying

Feeling anxious can lead to quite harmful behaviors, as one tends to always choose the safe path. 

For instance, when stressed over a certain situation directly related to goods, you might feel the need to buy too many products, a fact which, over time, will result in others not having what to buy or you having bought too much and wasting the very products you bought.

Anxiety and the need to buy luxury goods

When faced with difficult periods, like the pandemic we are all dealing with at present, individuals seem to tend to associate luxury goods to a greater safety level. 

Furthermore, research has shown that people believe to be able to distance themselves from danger only by purchasing luxurious and expensive products.

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