Shop ’til you drop: how shopping can become an addiction

When we think of addictions, there are certain vices that our minds jump to – alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and gambling for example. While these are all serious, they are not the only things that people can become dependent on.

It’s the things that we come across every day which are the hidden addictions of this era. Things like caffeine, tanning, and plastic surgery are often talked about, but one dependency on which people rarely touch is shopping.

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Shopping addiction, or oniomania, is perhaps not so easily recognisable as other addictions. When we think of shopaholics, we think of women in their late twenties laden with shopping bags full of clothes. However, it’s not so simple as that, as anyone can become addicted to shopping (as with any addiction), and it can be about buying anything. As well as this, modern technology makes it easier than ever to get the rush of purchasing new items which shopaholics crave. Almost every shop now has the option of buying online, sometimes with exclusive discounts, which can encourage those with oniomania to buy even more. Stores like ASOS have now even rolled out a feature which allows people to order clothes and not be charged for a month, as a trial period.

The main issue caused by shopping addictions is financial instability. Often people who have shopping addictions get into debt as a result, and can’t fund their addictions – but, as with any other addiction, stopping isn’t that easy. Shopping addictions can also affect mental health, with some saying it contributes to conditions such as anxiety and depression.

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In 2011, it was estimated that around 8-16% of the UK were affected by a shopping addiction. This is around eight million people, and yet, it’s still considered insignificant in comparison to other addictions.

Marguerita Bennett, a Gloucestershire counsellor who specialises in addictions, said that shopping addictions can often be overlooked.

“Not enough people talk about it,” she said, “It’s just as serious as any other addiction but doesn’t get taken as seriously.”

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Oniomania is what experts consider a behavioural addiction. This means that although your body doesn’t become addicted to shopping, your mind does. A similar example is gambling – both can ruin lives and are cycles that people can’t break out of, even though they aren’t physically affecting the victim’s body to the extent of drugs or alcohol.

Addictions are extensive, and they manifest themselves in different ways. But one thing that experts and victims alike agree on is that they all deserve to be treated with the same manner of urgency.

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