Cyber Monday is coming up soon. It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and it stands as a bookend to Black Friday — which is when brick-and-mortar stores receive a lot of their revenues for the year. On Cyber Monday, people hit their PCs, laptops and mobile phones to shop online.
Millions of people, however, shop online on a regular basis — not just on Cyber Monday. But how often do you shop online? Is it everyday? If so, could it be a sign you’re addicted?
How A Shopping Addiction Works
Psychologists note that some characteristics of online shoppers are the same as those for people addicted to any other substances — alcohol, drugs, food and so on. Addicts believe they feel better after indulging in their favorite substance. They pursue something that makes them feel good. Online shoppers often feel the same.
People who have a tendency to be addicted to online shopping also may be triggered by certain factors, just as addicts are. The factors are often called “cues.”
If the presence of alcohol, drugs or chocolate make you crave them uncontrollably, you might have an addiction in the making. The substances are cues that make you want to indulge.
For online shoppers, the constant availability of online shopping sites or sale offers might be an analogous trigger. Once triggered, you don’t just want to shop — you crave it, and it becomes a physical need.
Psychologists believe that approximately six percent of the American populace is addicted to shopping, either physical or online.
Do You Have These Characteristics?
Psychologists say three traits may predispose you to become addicted to online shopping:
You enjoy choices.
Do you love the constant availability and wide range of items available? If so, shopping is like an inexhaustible high from a substance that never runs out.
You enjoy instant gratification.
You may enjoy the instant gratification possible by shopping online. Just one click, and presto! You’ve shopped and bought! In a brick-and-mortar environment, you have to drive, go into stores and look through the merchandise.
Online shopping is much easier and often frictionless — no fighting other shoppers for the sales! Offers of free shipping can heighten the sense of instant gratification. Online, shopping can be an endless tape loop of pleasure and reward, with no cold weather or walking to the other end of the mall.
You enjoy privacy.
Do you enjoy the privacy of the online shopping experience? Researchers think that many online shopaholics have some degree of social anxiety. Being around other people causes stress. This stress is soothed by the ability to shop solo — online.
Dividing Lines: The 3 Characteristics Sound About Right, but Are You Really Addicted?
Ok, you might be saying, I do identify with the three characteristics above. But am I really addicted? That’s such a strong term. What’s the harm of enjoying instant gratification through shopping? If it makes you happy, why not do it?
The reason is because there are dividing lines between an often-indulged-in, fun activity and addiction. Addicts can’t always control what they’re doing, even if it starts to be harmful.
Often, those dividing lines center around whether you can stop or not. Do you find yourself vowing to stop online shopping this month, only to start up again a day later? Do you have a strict budget for holiday shopping but always violate it because you can’t pass up specific items, offers or a sale?
Other dividing lines have to do with the effects on your life in general. If you have unlimited funds, shopping 15 times a day may be no problem. However, if the shopping you’re doing results in a complete drain on your bank account, it may be a severe issue.
If you’re chronically maxed out on your credit cards, it could also be a sign you have an addiction problem. If you have difficulty paying bills like utilities and your mortgage or rent because you spend a lot of disposable income on unnecessary credit card purchases, ditto.
Finally, look at your feelings about online shopping. Some people shop until they drop online and feel completely okay with it. But if you feel stressed or guilty, assess why. Do you feel that you couldn’t stop even if you wanted to? Do you feel out of control?
Dividing Lines: Quiz Yourself
Not sure about where the dividing lines fall for you? Sometimes, it easier to see if you’re addicted to online shopping by taking a quiz. We have two!
For how you shop, researchers developed a quiz based on the modified questions below. Score each one on a scale of 1 to 7, with “strongly disagree” getting a 1, and “strongly agree” getting a 7. Scoring 25 or above indicates a possible online shopping addiction:
- A lot of my life focuses on buying things.
- If you look in my closet, you’ll see shopping bags with unopened items.
- People think I’m a shopaholic.
- I don’t need the things I buy.
- I never plan to buy the things I buy.
- My purchases are impulse purchases.
How about shopping’s effects on your life? Another modified quiz focuses on how it impacts daily life, relationships and feelings. The questions include:
- Have you ever had to miss work or school due to online shopping?
- Has online shopping caused issues or problems in your relationships?
- Do you feel that online shopping helps you escape from stress or worries?
It’s good to think about how shopping too much affects your pocketbook and overall life. However, online shopping can be convenient and fast, too. If you don’t have an addiction problem, enjoy online shopping!