The exact cause of an addiction is not clear, but the contributions of years of studies have helped researchers identify its link to other their addictive behaviours, such as alcohol, drugs, sex, and smoking. And shopaholism (also known as oniomania or compulsive buying) is considered an addiction by some because it has many similarities to these other well-established addictions, where many of the same parts of the brain are activated and a similar experience of euphoria is felt. Just as alcohol is the abused substance in alcoholism, money is the abused substance in a shopping addiction.
Research tells us that people who suffer from addiction get a rush of dopamine (a chemical in the brain that is associated with pleasure and reward) when they are able to satisfy a craving such as going on a shopping binge. With time, they become dependent on the "rush." But inevitably after the immediate gratification of a great purchase comes the pangs of guilt, shame, and disappointment. This becomes an ongoing cycle that makes you feel powerless and out of control.
But shopaholism is more than the loss of willpower or self control – it is also a behavioural problem that may be traced back to your upbringing. Studies show that shopaholics may have learned such behaviours at home or may have experienced abuse in their early years, such as sexual abuse. And more often than not, a shopping addiction has a greater likelihood of being accompanied by at least one other addiction (e.g., substance use) or disorder (i.e., anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, impulse, mood (e.g., depression)).
An addiction to shopping can also be traced to the impact of your environment. Studies found that this phenomenon is rarely seen in poverty-stricken countries except among the affluent. But in developed countries a market-based economy, the availability of lots of consumer goods, disposable income, and leisure time seem to play a role as to who is affected with a shopping addiction.
North Americans are overexposed to marketing and advertising gimmicks that encourage and promote a shopping and materialistic lifestyle, and shopping has become a major pastime and way of life. It is reported that people start developing an unhealthy habit of excessive shopping in their late teens and early 20s, when they move away from home and experience freedom and get their own credit cards, generating large debts at a young age.
And with the widespread use of the internet, people of all ages - especially the internet-savvy generation - are getting online to satisfy their shopping fix. Personal blogs are not just an online journal but personal e-boutiques. Teenagers buy and sell their stash through Facebook, often meeting their prospective buyers at specified subway stops after school or on weekends. The internet has also made it easier to shop. While these do not necessarily lead to or cause a shopping addiction, they do make it harder for someone with a penchant for shopping to kick the habit or to rein in their spending.
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