Using shopping as a resort to feel better is blatantly characterized as a ‘girly’ trait to possess. However, not only is this characterization sexist, but the people who do it are also oblivious to the fact that excessive shopping could be a result of a mental health issue and can even worsen your mental health further.
Yes, compulsive shopping is real and should not be taken lightly
“A compulsive behaviour is typically characterized by an inability to resist an impulse to act upon a particular urge or indulge in a behaviour. In the context of shopping, oniomania is a term used to describe a disorder in which the individual has an obsessive desire to shop, and finds it challenging to resist the idea of shopping”, explains Dr. Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist and director of Fortis School Mental Health Programme.
But why does this happen in the first place?
The impulse for compulsive shopping can be triggered by a multitude of factors including, features of mood disorders like depression, a sense of boredom as well as manifestations of emotional distress like anxiety, low self-esteem and peer pressure according to Parikh.
What are the symptoms?
“Compulsive shopping disorder or oniomania is characterized by frequent shopping bouts, which the individual finds difficult to control and indulging in such compulsive shopping with high expenditures and splurging, provides the individual with a sense of euphoria,” Parikh points out.
In fact, according to Dr. Manish Jain, consultant, psychiatry department, BLK Super-Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, shopping too much–even more than you can afford, usually as a reaction to an emotional problem–is another symptom of shopping becoming dangerous.
“People suffering from this disorder are emotionally unstable and have a lack of self-confidence and self-control,” he adds.
How does excessive shopping impact your mental health?
Unfortunately, this seemingly-harmless habit of shopping to feel better can have a negative impact on your mental health. Here’s how:
It doesn’t offer any solution to the real problem: The same purchases made to dampen your unpleasant emotions can trigger them too. Basically, when you hit the mall to shop with the intention of feeling better or distracting yourself, the surge in the positive feelings you might be experiencing at the time is not permanent. Ladies, shopping is not the solution, it is a mere distraction and eventually, the depression/sadness will creep back in.
“Though compulsive shopping is done in response to an emotional issue, it fails to provide any meaningful solution to the core problem,” says Jain.
Basically, you shop out of depression and end up falling in depression, you see.
The consequences worsen your mental health further: There’s no denying the fact that maxed out credit cards and unaffordable loans on the head due to shopping beyond your affordability can give you a lot of stress. Now, need I remind you of how stress can wreak havoc on your mental health and make your case worse?
Compulsive shopping can drive your loved ones away: Your partner or parents too can get sick of paying your endless bills or simply get frustrated with you being unavailable to them because you’re out shopping all the frickin’ time. This surely is enough to drive a wedge between you and your loved ones, thereby, ruining your chances of getting better by spending more time with your loved ones.
It’s a vicious cycle: “The spree or an episode of compulsive shopping typically tends to be accompanied or followed by a feeling of guilt, which could often precipitate depression in the sufferer. This, in turn, could become a trigger for a fresh shopping spree, launching a vicious cycle of emotional disturbances, impacting the individual’s overall mental health and well-being,” Parikh points out.
Feeling better for a few hours or working on your mental health: which one will you choose now?
What can you do to stop this?
When it comes to mental health issues, nothing works better than eliminating the stress-causing element in the first place. Additionally, alternate forms of distraction, which actually help you fight depression, anxiety, stress etc can take you a long way. Not to mention, talking to a loved one and communicating your problem can fetch you much-needed emotional support. However, if nothing works and your shopping is out of control, you’ve got to visit a doc and figure out a way to get past this.