Are you a shopaholic?
Going to the mall or looking at clothes online is a form of stress relief for many, and while retail therapy may offer a break from a difficult day, shopping can become an addiction.
Based on a survey of over 23,000 people, researchers found that women are more likely to develop a shopping addiction, as well as individuals who score high on neuroticism and extroversion.
“Extroverts, typically being social and sensation-seeking, may be using shopping to express their individuality or enhance their social status and personal attractiveness. Neurotic people, who typically are anxious, depressive, and self-conscious, may use shopping as a means of reducing their negative feelings,” lead study author Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen said in a news release. “Our research indicates that people who score high on extroversion and neuroticism are more at risk of developing shopping addiction.”
In addition, researchers discovered that shopping addiction is related to symptoms of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
“Shopping may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, unpleasant feelings – although shopping addiction may also lead to such symptoms,” said Dr. Andreassen.
Based on findings from the survey, The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale was developed to determine if someone was addicted to shopping, and if so, to what degree. Those taking the questionnaire rated each question with either completely disagreed, disagreed, neither disagreed nor agreed, agreed and completely agreed.
- You think about shopping/buying things all the time.
- You shop/buy things in order to change your mood.
- You shop/buy so much that it negatively affects your daily obligations (e.g., school and work).
- You feel you have to shop/buy more and more to obtain the same satisfaction as before.
- You have decided to shop/buy less, but have not been able to do so.
- You feel bad if for some reason you are prevented from shopping/buying things.
- You shop/buy so much that it has impaired your well-being.
Agreeing or completely agreeing with four or more of the questions may be a sign that a person is addicted to shopping.
If this is the case, Elizabeth Rutha, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, offers some advice on ending the addiction.
“In many cases, shopping addiction may stem from deeper emotional issues or mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety,” says Rutha. “If this is the case, mental health treatment such as psychotherapy or medication should be pursued. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy, has also been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of shopping addiction.”
In less severe cases, she recommends enlisting outside support in helping to create a realistic budget and stick to it. Also, keep track of triggers that cause the urge to shop. It’s helpful to keep a mood log when there are times that a person feels most vulnerable to start a shopping binge.
Finally, consider coping skills or alternative behaviors for dealing with the urges, such as meditation, talking with a supportive friend or journaling at times the feeling seems overwhelming.
“If these techniques are unsuccessful over time, it would be helpful to speak with a mental health professional,” says Rutha.
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