Cyber Monday: Is it a shopping spree or a shopping addiction?

There is a thin line between what you need and what you want. If you don’t watch out, online shopping could become a habit that wrecks your finances.

Myupchar December 02, 2019 13:59:11 IST
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Cyber Monday: Is it a shopping spree or a shopping addiction?

Black Friday, going into Cyber Monday - we're sure shopping ads and promos are making it impossible for you to think of anything but what's on your wish list. Because let's be honest, everyone likes shopping. They might not enjoy the bit where their wallet gets lighter or they may not be too crazy about spending time in an insipid mall, but most people enjoy the activity in some form or the other. We know already that too much of anything is a bad thing. That begs the question, then: at what point does online shopping become a problem?

With new apps being released almost every day, many chores like paying an electricity/water supply bill or buying groceries can be done in a few clicks without waiting in long queues. Those are necessities, though. What about the times when you unlock your phone to check the weather and end up with five pairs of shoes in your cart? 

Cyber Monday Is it a shopping spree or a shopping addiction

Representational image. Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay.

According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB, the number of Internet users in India is more than 500 million.

Having everything you want within reach all the time is a dream come true. But there is a thin line between what you need and what you want. If you don’t watch out, online shopping could become a habit that wrecks your finances.

I love shopping online. Am I an addict?

An online shopping addict may feel like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster. For example, they could spend a lot of time thinking about shopping and then get anxious just before making a purchase. Once the purchase is made, many shopping addicts report experiencing a sense of relief or euphoria. Unfortunately, that relief is often short-lived as many addicts start feeling guilty about the purchase after a while and the cycle begins again.

Evidence shows that men drift more towards gambling and sex addiction, while women are more likely to develop food and shopping addictions.

Online shopping addiction is very different from the love of shopping. People with shopping addiction continue to shop despite serious negative consequences like a pilling credit card debt, inability to pay bills, failed relationships, and financial or legal troubles. 

Compulsive shoppers may use shopping as a way to escape negative feelings like depression, anxiety, boredom, self-critical thoughts and anger.

Is this a disease? Do I need to see a doctor?

The American Psychiatric Association included online shopping addiction under Internet addiction in the year 2000. Scientists developed an Online Shopping Addiction Scale with six key features to determine if a person is an addict or not.

  • Salience: If online shopping has become the most important activity in that person’s life, preoccupying their thoughts and cravings.
  • Mood modification: If the shopper feels high, excited, quiet, numb or even depressed after the fulfilment of the addiction.
  • Tolerance: If he/she needs to buy more each time to get the same sense of satisfaction.
  • Withdrawal: This is the unpleasant sensation or a reaction seen after the addictive behaviours are cut off or restricted.
  • Conflict: The addict knows about the harm that the addiction is causing but cannot stop.
  • Relapse: It is the tendency of returning to the addiction of online shopping after dropping or restricting it.

How can shopping addiction be treated? 

As far as the treatment goes, at present, there are no proven pharmacological treatments for compulsive buying disorder. 

Since people with a shopping addiction often have co-occurring psychiatric disorders, part of their treatment is actually treating the other disorders, which may have a residual effect of reducing compulsive online shopping behaviours. This may include treatment with anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication or mood stabilizers.

The best possible way to deal with online shopping addiction could be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a form of talk therapy.

Family and friends should try to understand and be supportive. It’s important to provide assurance and make them realize that they are not alone. 

Psychiatrists also make peer-to-peer support groups, where people try to find ways to stop spending money and going into debt.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Mental Illness.

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