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What is shopping addiction and how can it be treated?

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Introduction

What is shopping addiction and how can it be treated? Over the last few decades, the attitude with which individuals make consumer choices has changed. Factors such as higher disposable income and easily available credit facilities mean that more than ever shopping is not solely for material necessity. As Benson put it "to regard the shopping process as nothing more than material consumption is like thinking of food as solely nutritional or sex as wholly for procreation" (Benson 2000, p68). Through an examination of buying behaviour and buying motivations it has been shown how choices about consumer products are influenced by factors other than the functional aspects of the goods. Factors include symbolic meanings, which allow individuals to express and construct a sense of self and ones identity. Dittmar and Beattie define impulse buying (or oniomania) as the purchasing of consumer goods without careful deliberation, perhaps with insufficient information or without prior intent. Puchases which with hidsight and rational reflection might not have been made. They suggest that buying goods to bolster ones self image is something that contributes to nearly all buying behaviour (Dittmar and Beattie 1996) Everybody, in fact, would be able to recall an occasion when they acted according to these definitions, just as everyone has at some time drunk too much or eaten too much only to regret it on reflection. However, it is when this becomes detrimental to finance, family and self that it can be called compulsive buying behaviour. Compulsive buying behaviour or "shopping addiction" is estimated to affect two to five percent of adults in developed Western countries (Dittmar, Beattie and Friese, 1996) This essay will firstly look at the two theories of oniomania; Social Psychological theory and the Psychiatric or Clinical perspective. Then some of the options for treatment will be discussed. Many researchers have talked of the role of self esteem in shopping addiction. ...read more.

Middle

Dittmar et. al. (1996) demonstrated this web in the peper discussed before looking at self-discrepancies and shopping. The low self-esteem element seems to be an important contributing factor in addictive disorders but high levels of materialism seem to create compulsive shoppers because possesions seem to mean much more to them than ordinary shoppers. In other words, if someone was a very utilitarian shopper (Babin et. al. 1994) perhaps a male who took pleasure in visiting casinos or bars (or used them to "unwind"), suffered from large self-discrepancies and negative affect but low materialism - he might become a gambling addict or an alcoholic. Furby described the theory of meaning and function of possesions throughout the life cycle. He found that people viewed possesions as an "extention of the individual" that helps define individuality. This supports the idea that with compulsive shoppers possesions are their "poison" and enhance self-esteem. Furby goes on to suggest that "Establishing a sense of self identity is certanly a social phenomenon - it must be done vis-a-vis other individuals" (Furby, 1978. p 37) Since possesions are viewed as an extensi�n of one person and since society values posessions and consumption (Otto 1975. As cited by Furby 1978) Another point which must be touched on is the issue of gender differences in shopping addiction. A study by Dittmar explored to types of personal possesions men and women consider important and the meanings they attach to them. The results showed that men seem to see possesions as important mainly because of their instrumental, pragmatic and self referant features. Women seem to also consider possesions as symbolic of interpersonal intergration and emotional attatchment. These findings are relevant because shopping addiction is mostly a womans disorder. Shopping in general is still really a womans pursuit and a culturally accepted norm. As mentioned earlier perhaps men are more likely to alter their negaitve affect with alcohol or gambling. ...read more.

Conclusion

Neurochemical imbalances (involving serotonin) have been suggested as a posible factor in the development of compulsive consumption disorders (Black and Gable as cited by Faber et al.1995) In support of this a study by McElroy, Satlin and Pope (1999) showed how compulsive shopping can be treated with Fluoxetine. For a treatment to be affective in the long term however it seems that self image and materialism and drug therapy would be an effective combination. To conclude, this essay has shown hoiw the act of shopping is not simply for the functional aspects of the goods. According to the social psychological model other factors such as symbolic meaning allow the individual to express and construct a sense of self and identity. The evidence reviewed here has demonstrated how individuals suffering from shopping addiction are more likely to suffer from low-self esteem, be more prone to fantasy and be more materialistic than matched controls.(O�Guinn and Faber 1989) The majority of the evidence talks ogf an emtiness of the self that is soothed and "filled up" by consumer goods.(Cushman 1990) This is supported by the fact that compulsive shoppers will mostly purchase image orientated goods such as jewellery and clothes. The essay has also explored to clinical perspective and the way in which there is a strong likelihood of co-morbidity of psychiatric disorders. A relationship between eating disorders, gambling and shopping in particular has been explored and a striking similarity to the addiction framework of drug users has been noted.(O�Guinn and Faber 1989) The second part of the essay has delt with some of the various treatments available for individuals with shopping addiction. Namely: psychoanalytic psychotherapy, behavioural techniques and twelve sep programs such as Debtors anon. have been discussed. In addition to this, therapies involving helping individuals with self-discrepancy issues have been looked at. The more clinical aspect of treatment with anti-depressant drugs has also been discused. ECONOMIC AND CONSUMER PSYCHOLOGY 3RD YEAR SCHOOL OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES ELIZABETH MATHEWS "What is "shopping addiction" and how can it be treated?" 3061 wds ...read more.

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