As UK internet shopping tops more than £120 billion, accounting for around 30% of total sales, more and more retailers are expanding their Direct to Consumer (D2C) strategies.

Platforms like Amazon, Etsy and TikTok Shop have all seen a massive increase in sales over the past few years.  Fuelled by the Covid Pandemic, the ability to cut out the middle-man to buy directly ‘from factory to sofa’ has created some serious savings for online consumers.

But it has also created new dangers.

Next This month sees the return of one of the most anticipated retail events in the calendar. Friday November 25th is the date for this year’s Black Friday sale. Retailers will try to boost their sales instore and on-line in the final quarter of the year, while consumers will try to grab pre-Christmas bargains.

But while many revel in their ability to snap up some early Christmas bargains, for others, particularly those with an unhealthy approach to impulsive or compulsive shopping, this uber-hyped global discount sale can be a very dangerous time.

Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction, or compulsive buying disorder as it is also known is a type of behavioural addiction and it can be just as damaging as drug or alcohol addiction.

Oniomania-or what’s more commonly referred to as shopping addiction- involves compulsive buying as a way to make the sufferer feel good and avoid negative feelings, such as anxiety and depression. Like any other behavioural addictions, shopping addiction can take over as a preoccupation that leads to further problems in other areas of life.

In an age of smart devices that listen and track your habits, providing targeted advertising which offers products that match our requirements perfectly, it has become perhaps a more socially acceptable addiction that is fuelled by the retail industry telling us that buying will make us happy.

Signs of Shopping Addiction

The difference between a shopping spree and more compulsive behaviour may be hard to spot but there are signs that might indicate someone’s shopping is a little more concerning:

  • Shopping either in person or online, as a way to deal with stress, pressure or other negative experiences
  • A lifting of mood as a result of shopping – albeit a temporary state
  • Frequently exceeding agreed budgets
  • Often shopping impulsively because of an overwhelming compulsion to do so
  • Experiencing a sense of shame or guilt about for the amount spent or the number of items purchased
  • Concealing purchases by hiding or throwing them away
  • Continuing to shop despite financial consequences
  • Inability to limit the frequency of shopping or the amount of money spent

People who struggle with shopping addiction typically spend more time and money on shopping than they can afford, and many get into financial problems as a result of their overspending. These financial problems cause further feelings of stress, anxiety and guilt and cause only to perpetuate this cycle.

How Shopping Is Like Other Addictions

There are several characteristics that shopping shares with other addictions.

People who shop compulsively can become preoccupied with spending and devote significant time and money to the activity. The act of spending is a crucial part in achieving satisfaction; window shopping or browsing online doesn’t achieve the same euphoria.

Shopping – like other addictions is highly ritualised and follows a typically addictive pattern of stressful situations, feelings of anxiety which habitually lead to thoughts about shopping and planning shopping trips.

Shopping is often described as pleasurable, ecstatic, and a real release from negative feelings.

Once the act of shopping is done, and the money spent, the shopper experiences disappointment, guilt, regret, anger, or shame for what they have done and may seek to conceal it from family and friends.

Dangers of Social Selling for Shopping Addicts

The new age of shopping from home, the train, in bed or even the bath has driven exponential growth in online retail channels, which has included an explosion in Social Commerce. While Amazon remains by far the most popular platform, earning $30.1bn alone in 2022, its growth has been mirrored by other  on-line channels as social media platforms have evolved to become a place to engage with influencers, brands and present an opportunity to make instant purchases without ever leaving an app.

Shopping addiction can involve impulsive and compulsive spending, producing a temporary high, which can be fuelled by this ability to make  seamless in-app purchases and which can mean those suffering with this type of addiction are able to cover it up more easily.

How to Cope With Shopping Addiction

There are some steps that people can take to reduce the harm of compulsive spending and get the problematic behaviour under control.

Overcoming any addiction requires the individual affected to learn alternative ways to deal with the negative emotions or difficult situations in their life.

Developing other ‘coping’ strategies can also mean establishing new ways to enjoy leisure time to break the habit of using shopping as a way to feel better about oneself  but developing a spending plan can be a good first step.

Those suffering with any addiction should be encouraged to talk about it to help educate those around them and remove the stigma and guilt associated with it. They should also ask someone else to perhaps take over the responsibility of buying the weekly food shop to remove temptation – even temporarily while they seek help.

Those with a shopping addiction can also limit their internet browsing by implementing time controls, for periods – such as late at night- when the habit forms or opportunity arises. They can also limit their access to cash or credit. Applying spending limits to any cards or cash withdrawals and keeping only ‘emergency cash’ in the house can be a way of reducing the opportunity for multiple purchases and thus limiting the financial impact of any exaggerated compulsive shopping.

People with this addiction should also avoid shopping with other known addicts.

Support for shopping addiction

Much of the behavioural change required to manage this addiction can be done independently, but people often benefit from counselling or therapy.

For those with addiction issues of any kind, with the right support and guidance their addiction can be overcome.

The Recovery Lodge helps shopping addicts along the road to their recovery. Trained staff on site offer valuable support and services to help individuals regain control of their lives, including intervention, therapy, and a supportive community for when users leave the facility to continue their recovery.

If you or someone you know is suffering with shopping addictions and would like help, advice or support to overcome this addiction, our friendly team is here to help – simply call us directly on 01795 431 751.

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