Many of us remember when going to the mall was the thing we did on the weekends. It was as much a social event as a shopping activity. Today we can shop anytime we want; a myriad of goods and services are available at our fingertips 24/7. But how do you know if your shopping habit is a problem? Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway have developed a way to measure your love of shopping, and the result may surprise you.
Is shopping addiction real?
We live in a culture that tends to want to assign the word “addiction” to unsavory behaviors left and right, but shopping addiction is a real thing. By definition, an addiction is a condition that results from consuming a substance or engaging in a behavior that begins as a pleasurable action and then evolves into something “compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health,” according to Psychology Today. The kicker: addicts may be unaware of the situation, and out-of-control behaviors may be causing problems in their lives without them realizing it.
“Like other addictions, [compulsive shopping] basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one’s impulses. In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping,” said Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, as quoted by WebMD.
The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale
A team of researchers at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway has come up with a scale to determine if a person is addicted to shopping. Author and lead researcher, Dr. Cecilie S. Andreassen, points to sociocultural factors including advanced marketing, social media and credit cards, which promote the ease of the modern shopping experience. This experience makes it far easier for shopping addicts to get their fix.
Dr. Andreassen and her team found some distinct tendencies among shopping addicts. “Addictive shopping clearly occurs more regularly amongst certain demographic groups,” said Dr. Andreassen in a press release. “It is more predominant in women, and is typically initiated in late adolescence and emerging adulthood, and it appears to decrease with age.”
Individuals who are particularly extroverted or anxious have a tendency to become addicted to shopping. There also seems to be a correlation between depression and low self-esteem and shopping addiction, as the activity may be a coping mechanism for low mood.
Seven warning signs
According to the UiB press release, the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale utilizes seven criteria to assess one’s shopping addiction. Each criterion is scored on a scale of zero to four, zero representing “completely disagree” while four represents “completely agree.” The assessment asks participants to score each of the following to determine their degree of addiction:
- You think about shopping or buying things all the time.
- You use shopping to change your mood.
- You shop or buy so much that it negatively affects other obligations in daily life (e.g. work or school).
- You feel like you have to shop or buy increasingly more stuff to experience the same satisfaction as before.
- You have decided to shop or buy less, but you just haven’t managed to do so.
- You feel bad if you are unable to shop or buy things.
- You shop or buy so much that it threatens your well-being.
If you answered “agree” or “completely agree” to at least four of these criteria, you might be a shopping addict. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, there are organizations and therapists that can help. Feel like you should cut down on your shopping? Try relying only on cash or debit cards. Experts recommend making — and adhering to — a shopping list and seeking help from support groups like Debtors Anonymous.
Do you think you have a shopping addiction?
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.