Compulsive shopping: what it is and 5 strategies to control it

offers, and discounts on the first purchase. And again, Black Friday, promotions and further discounts if you subscribe to the newsletter or reach a certain number of points. Everything is designed to make us buy. Between online shopping and physical stores, these times of year are the fertile ground for the development of compulsive shopping, as also confirmed by Therapy Chat. Who shares five tips on how to get out and manage these urges?

Online purchases and compulsive shopping: what is it about?

According to data provided by Therapy Chat, a leading online psychology platform founded in 2016 and a meeting point between psychologists who want to offer their services online and people, compulsive shopping disorders affect between 1% and 11.3% of the population, with obvious peaks in the most stimulating periods such as sales and Black Friday.

“It’s also called oniomania. It is a maladaptive and impulsive persistent shopping behaviour that arises from a sense of anxiety and dissatisfaction and that causes harm to both the sufferer and those around him. The disorder mostly affects young people aged between 18 and 30 years» spiegano da Therapy Chat.

Oniomania usually occurs especially in those who have already been diagnosed with some disorders such as anxiety, impulse self-control problems, and mood disorders but also poor self-control and high insecurity which translates into a negative self-image.

How does the compulsive shopping mechanism work?

“It’s very similar to addiction. Those who suffer from it feel a sense of “urgency” that reduces their self-control and prompts them to buy to alleviate insecurity, anxiety or distress. The transaction usually generates a sense of instant gratification that helps them release tension. The problem with this coping mechanism is the short duration of this feeling of calm and reassurance, which tends to disappear quickly leaving room for remorse and guilt for having succumbed to temptation” the experts explain.

In short words, it is a self-destructive cycle that not only tends to generate further anxiety but also irritability or depression e it can profoundly affect self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. As well as causing serious financial problems.

In the brain, the limbic system continues to generate pleasure

A mechanism that is also physical. In fact, in front of an object to buy, the brain reacts by highlighting a need to satisfy: «So the prefrontal cortex acts, the brain structure in which our thoughts come to life in charge of rationally evaluating the need to buy something and that it is a necessity, and the limbic system, especially the amygdala, responsible for our emotions that regulates our impulses and desires. When you suffer from oniomania, the amygdala takes over, triggering anxiety by stimulating continuous pleasure which is resolved only with the purchase. There are also moments in which the limbic system declares a sort of “state of urgency” and appropriates all available resources, shutting down the prefrontal cortex. At this point, emotions cloud judgment and prevent you from thinking clearly. In other words, one is left at the mercy of basic instincts and unsatisfied desires».

Result? One can buy things that are only satisfying at the moment because they are not actually useful or really liked.

Understanding Compulsive Shopping Disorder

Five strategies to control compulsive shopping

So how to adjust? With five behaviors to maintain:

1. Plan ahead

“Take a look in the house and making a list of things you need can be a way to avoid impulse buying. The list must include the essentials and only what is needed. The ideal would be to do it well in advance, so that we can review the list a day or two in advance and eliminate any unnecessary entries.’

2. Establish and stick to a budget

“It can help you avoid unnecessary purchases that you might later regret. To make a realistic budget, you need to establish an approximate price for each item. Then setting a spending limit and avoiding exceeding iteven in the face of an irresistible offer.

3. Pay attention to emotions when shopping

Be aware of your emotions when buying can help you regain control of the situation and avoid unnecessary purchases. If you are feeling anxious, elated or stressed, take some time to relax before continuing with the buying process. Get up, have a drink, breathe consciously, turn off the computer. Once you have self-checked, you can evaluate whether or not you need to continue with the purchase and why.

4. Focus your attention on what you are looking for

Often you buy more than you intended to buy because other offers have caught your attention. To prevent this from happening, you need to focus solely on the items you need and avoid getting distracted by other products.

5. Buy together

Shopping with a partner, friend, or family member can help control impulsive behavior and to avoid unnecessary purchases. Be honest with this person and ask them to help regulate purchase intentions. That way, you’ll think twice before buying things you don’t need.

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