Alison Armstrong for the Guardian Professional Network guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 June 2011 If we really are a nation of shopaholics, then maybe there’s something to be learnt from studying self-declared shopping addicts. That was the premise behind a ground-breaking RESOLVE study which followed a small group of people trying to ‘cure’ their addiction to shopping using innovative ‘mindfulness’ training. Shopping addiction, or oniomania, affects an estimated 8-16% of Britain’s adults; that’s 8 million people. The stereotype is that more women are affected than men.
Research, including our own, shows this to be true. But if you include gadgets, sports equipment and computer accessories/software, then it’s as prevalent among men and problematic. Popular discourses on shopaholics treat the condition with humour. But the reality of being addicted to shopping is far from comical. Within the group of compulsive buyers studied, individuals were facing crippling debt, severe depression and anxiety, and had lost or were losing key relationships: “I’ve lost the respect of my children … all that’s really important (is for) them to still accept me as their mum,” said a respondent.
Yet, the addictive allure of the shops and the promise of continual reinvention of the self through buying kept them trapped in the buying habit. So what drives buying, and at levels unsustainable on a finite planet? For many, shopping is a means of lessening negative emotions, such as worry, anxiety, sadness, loss and loneliness and provides an escape from those feelings, if only for short time. Retail therapy works. Buying and owning material items can help feel complete and more the person others like to see. “[If] I go into work in new clothes, I feel more believable, more accepted,” said a respondent. But such a feeling can apply to all, but a compulsive buyer is obsessed with shopping despite experiencing negative consequences. Our study proposed the concept of mindfulness as a unique way to address people’s human wants and needs, without turning to excessive shopping. Mindfulness encourages us to fully experience whatever is happening to us in the present moment, and importantly to not judge that as good or bad.
If practiced consistently, it has been shown effective at reducing depression and anxiety, increasing feelings of wellbeing, and enabling other types of addict to live more balanced lives. Six self-confessed shopping addicts volunteered to learn mindfulness over an eight week period, and the changes in them were extraordinary. They experienced lessening of depression and anxiety that had driven them to shop, and reported feeling happier and more accepting of themselves. Crucially, participants seemed to have a greater sense of who they are, and what they really needed on psychological and material levels.
They also reported feeling stronger, more able to understand the triggers for shopping urges, and to choose moment by moment whether they would indulge those urges. While the research offers a compelling argument for more widespread use of the practice of mindfulness in reducing shopping addiction, it is also important to consider whether the changes would last. Three months after the end of the mindfulness course, depression and shopping levels among those who attended the training had relapsed slightly, but not to the levels at the beginning. So although these results are positive and encouraging, wider social and cultural changes are clearly needed to support individual efforts.
1. Think about your shopping habits with regards to a) food and b) clothing. Examine to what extent you think your purchases for each of these types of products are about fulfilling utilitarian benefits i.e. can you give examples of when you have bought goods that fulfil very basic needs e.g. hunger or, in the case of clothing, warmth and when you have bought product to fulfil hedonistic (pleasurable) purposes. 2. To what extent do you agree with the statement by Dittmar that purchasing goods is about ‘seeking mood repair and improved sense of self-identity’ 3. What factors can you think of that explain why some people may have a shopping addiction? 4. Research indicates that women are much more likely to suffer from shopping addictions than men? Why do you think this may be the case? 5. Do you think retailers can be blamed consumers’ shopping addictions? if so, why?
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Shopping Addiction. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/shopping-addiction-essay