For many people, shopping is a relatively normal activity of daily life that you give little thought to. For others, however, shopping takes on an entirely different meaning. It can become as destructive as any other addiction type and result in a financial nightmare for the shopper and family alike. This is referred to as shopping addiction or compulsive shopping.
The Internet, quite similar to shopping, is a relatively normal activity in most people’s daily life. However, the rise of the Internet has increased the ability for consumers to shop in more locations, shop for longer periods of time and purchase more items with ease.
The rise of e-commerce sites and online auction houses has made spending money online not just commonplace but compulsive for many people. While shopping online, consumers can get caught up in the illusion that they are not really spending money. Your credit card gets debited, and that removes the mechanics of shopping. It feels good for a moment, but because it’s a temporary state, you do it again and again.
There has been an increase in U.S. online spending — from $7.8 billion in 1998 to an estimated $14.9 billion in 1999, according to Jupiter Communications. Approximately 11 million people (6 per cent of Internet users) suffer from some form of Web addiction, according to the American Psychological Association. The implications of using this statistical information are that there is a dramatic increase in compulsive behaviours associated with the Internet, including compulsive shopping behaviours.
Reasons for Online Shopping Addiction
Online shopping is addictive for the same reasons offline shopping does: a person gets a quick thrill from the acquisition and fails to make a connection to an actual impact on the wallet.
”On the Internet, it’s not real money,” says Maressa Hecht Orzack, founder of the Computer Addiction Service at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard University. ”If you get carried away, you can be in lots of trouble.”
Worse, because people don’t cap their online experience by leaving with clothes or CDs or books, they find they need to make a larger number of buys to reach that shopping high.
Online auctions are even more addictive, their lure lying in the excitement of bidding, strategizing, and one hopes, ultimately outbidding others. It becomes less about the item and more about the competition.
The sheer variety of items offers further temptations — a person can head to eBay to pick up some old books and end up bidding on videos, antique dolls and duct tape. There’s also the cosy feeling of community bonding in related chat rooms devoted to china dolls or Star Trek merchandise. The auction experience even becomes a confidence booster for some patients who admit they just like reading compliments posted under their user profile.
Also, there is a growing availability of Internet access in homes, at work and in even retail locations. With the growing access to this tool of shopping, the impulse to shop whenever or wherever a person may be is greater. The impulse or trigger of this addiction is right at your fingertips most of the day making it harder to find other ways to avoid this addictive behaviour.
Signs of Online Shopping Addiction
So what’s the difference between the occasional online splurge and the indication of a real problem? The signs of online shopping addiction are similar to those of other compulsive disorders:
- Addicts neglect jobs or families.
- When they’re not online shopping, they’re often thinking about it.
- They overspend and regularly buy things they don’t need just to get the buzz.
- They lie about their purchases.
- They rack up major bills.
Shopping Addiction Help
It is important to realize that like any other addiction, genuine compulsive online shopping is a disease. Treatment focuses on the management of the behaviour, which can be difficult when so many people use computers and the Internet in their everyday work. It helps to:
- Identify what the triggers are
- Identify what makes a person want to spend online, whether it’s boredom, nervousness, or habit
- Setting time and spending limits
- Clear your credit card numbers and customer information from online shopping accounts so that spending isn’t too easy
If you or someone …