Just about everyone has experienced buyer's remorse from time to time (what I wouldn't do to be able to return all the clearance rack impulse purchases of my youth). But it's possible to get too much of every good thing, shopping included, and new research sheds light on shopping addiction and the criteria for its diagnosis. Understanding how to tell if you have a shopping addiction will help you to figure out whether you just need some tips for spending more wisely, or whether you have a genuine problem, before this year's prime holiday shopping season begins.
Interdisciplinary researchers from universities in Norway, the U.K., and the U.S. developed the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale (BSAS) to identify shopping addiction specifically (whereas it has previously mostly been grouped in as a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or a regular impulse-control problem). Having administered the BSAS to more than 23,000 participants, the researchers found that some patterns emerged as to who tends to come down with a genuine shopping addiction problem. People who are extroverted and neurotic (having a long-term negative emotional state) are more likely to become shopping addicts, while people who are conscientious, agreeable, and intellectual or imaginative are less likely to become shopping addicts.
These findings sort of make sense — folk wisdom about shopping certainly holds that people who buy too much stuff are trying to make themselves feel happier, and that they spend way more money than is responsible in this pursuit of material happiness. But I'm a little surprised that extroverts are more likely to be shopping addicts, since the kind of shopping engaged in by real addicts is usually solitary (before there were so many online shopping opportunities to lure us in a down moment, of course there were HSN and QVC).
Although you should definitely avoid formally diagnosing yourself with any physical or mental problem without the input of a doctor, the shopping addiction questions are available here. If you pass (er, fail) the quiz, you should definitely consider talking to a therapist about whether your shopping habits fit into a well-rounded life. A little retail therapy now and then isn't pathological, but you should avoid putting yourself in a position where shopping sort of fills the void in your life while sadly crowding out the things (like friends, family, and success) that could do it much better.
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