Just shopping or obsession

How marketing creates addiction and how it can transform into “oniomania” and cause suffering, financial and relationship issues

09:00 | 10 май 2024
Обновен: 18:43 | 13 май 2024
Снимка: Pexels.com
Снимка: Pexels.com

Shopping is a pleasant activity and an important part of our everyday life but buying things which we don’t need may become “oniomania” and cause suffering, financial and relationship issues.

Both men and women are prone to addiction to shopping and it is most common among age groups from teenagers to adults. Women, however, have stronger inclination to become addicts.

For children, shopping is a hobby related to begging their parents to buy a particular product, while parents try to satisfy their children.

Sometimes, parents try to recompense the fact that they don’t spend a lot of time with their children, with material stuff. And this parental example is what shall define the behavior of the child in the future.

In the teenage years, clothing and brands become crucial as youngsters are searching for identity and belonging to a social group.

Different users have different shopping preferences:

  • hoarding disorder – people accumulate objects;
  • labelmania – people buy products from certain high-class brands;
  • salesmania – people follow sales and offers to buy goods;
  • gadget addiction – mainly for men – people buy the newest technical inventions.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICB-10) does not define the shopping addiction as a diagnosed condition.

People who suffer from depressive conditions or anxiety may receive from shopping the feeling of freedom, control over their own life, confidence and escape from problems. However, the material things are not able to compensate the emotional deprivation.

Platon, the ancient Greek philosopher, addresses the issue of obsessive human behavior in people who don’t act in a moderate way, seeing it as a sign of predestination to misfortune.

Shopping addiction is usually accompanied by hiding shopping bags, receipts, avoiding questions about how much money is spent, worsening of relations with loved ones, etc. On the other hand, people who enjoy going shopping are part of the mass consumption too, but they count on better system of values, better confidence and the ability of critical thinking. Even higher consumption of products might be considered normal, as long as the consumer can actually afford it.

Once upon a time, Socrates used to wander about the markets saying “What a lot of things I don't need”.

The reasons for such an addiction can relate to the serotonin levels which affect the impulse control disorder. The dysfunctional behavior of recompense gives temporary satisfaction, but then disappointment and the feeling of emptiness replace it. While we’re shopping, our brain generates neurotransmitters, such as endorphin and dopamine which might be addictive. Usually, the brain relates shopping to pleasure, therefore, the stimulus is to repeat it.

We are under the strong influence of many factors, the most important of them being the advertising, but also social background and educational level count.

When we feel insecure, the impulse we have is to possess. Actually, this is misleading, because we don’t really possess the objects, it’s rather the other way round, the objects possess us, we become slaves of our belongings.

Conformism is a factor of the social life of each generation – it is safer to do what the others do; if I am different, I wouldn’t be enough.

Erich Fromm’s book ‘To Have or to Be?’ states that we often forget to be and to be here and now.

The marketing is extremely influential and stimulates us to buy things that we don’t need, through advertising, collecting user data online and hindering us from spending time with our families, enjoying natural things in life and relaxing. The aim is to promote consumption and to uniform our tastes, so that we become predictable consumers.

In our everyday life, we are surrounded by brands which differ from the rest. People identify with such brands because they bring a set of emotions which make them outstanding and worth remembering, they bring, after all, the sensation of luxury and high social status. We classify the restaurants (as bad, average, good, excellent, etc.) or the jobs (as prestigious, well-paid, cool, etc.); or the brands, as high-quality, just cool, or those which offer good quality-price ratio, etc.

Tackling oniomania is not easy, because we are constantly exposed to tons of advertising. This makes it harder to deal with this issue since it stops us from following the shopping lists we make in advance, and, therefore, from managing our personal finance. Being constantly exposed to influences might lead to the accumulation of debts, anxiety, and interpersonal conflicts which one might find hard to overcome. In these cases, it is important to seek help from our close circle, our supporting community or an expert/therapist.