The fastest growing addiction in the US is online shopping. Ads pop up on our social media, news feeds and email. Boxes pile up in your closet of unopened packages. And then one day you notice you purchased the same item twice! Are you addicted to online shopping or any shopping for that matter? Let’s break down this latest epidemic.
A “Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD)” was first described in the early 20th century as a compulsive disorder that left the patient with debt. Later in the century its classification was debated and eventually included with the personality disorders.
Compulsive buying is known as “oniomania” where one buys impulsively and excessively to the point that it leaves them in financial hardship. And despite their financial issues they continue to make purchases. We’ve used the term “shopaholics” to describe those addicted to shopping but compulsive buying connotes the lack sense of financial ruin that can ensue. The spending is an attempt to satisfy a need that never gets fulfilled.
Compulsive buying disorder may be seen in those who suffer from mania and bipolar disorder. During manic episodes excessive spending may occur. Additionally we may see CBD co-morbidly in those who suffer from eating, gambling, substance use, and mood disorders.
Compulsive online shopping occurs when purchases are made online, without much thought or planning, and at a frequency where it may interfere with one’s life. People who might have never become a compulsive shopper in a traditional store may become easily addicted to online shopping. Those who are compulsive online shoppers may exhibit any of the following:
So compulsive online shopping, as well as compulsive buying disorder, can affect relationships, employment, finances and health.
Various sources have put the range at 5-8% of the US population.
When one is able to shop from the comfort of one’s desk or work station, the “ease” factor drives more shopping. Avoiding the need to leave work or home to battle traffic and weather and long lines, is one of the biggest draws. Moreover, those who hate going into a store or dressing room, concerned others will see the sizes of clothes they are trying on, can now shop in the privacy in their own home. Additionally shopping allows one to fight the boredom they have at work or home and give one a sense of accomplishment. And once one has a successful and satisfying purchase, the reward centers of the brain are activated making one want to shop more.
Hence, shrewd marketing will appeal to the human psyche by any of the following:
Don’t give in to the ads. People must realize they are being bombarded with some of the most creative marketing manipulation known to mankind. We can’t fall for it. Why are we letting our smart devices dictate to us what we need in our closets, pantries or garages?
But to fight the urge to shop online excessively, we must:
If needed, compulsive shopping can be treated with therapy as well as medications including SSRI’s, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are efficacious in those with impulsive personalities or obsessive-compulsive disorder.