Understanding the psychology behind shopping addiction can help you overcome yours or prevent an existing addiction from getting even worse.
First of all.. I used to me a shopping addict myself.
I used to spend far too much money on shopping, clothing specifically. As soon as my paycheck hit my bank account all I could think about were the clothes I wanted to buy. I used to go to the mall for fun to wander the stores and shop and I’d spend hours mindlessly shopping online.
What seemed like a harmless activity was actually doing a lot of damage to my bank account and my savings. I got into debt. My mental health was affected because I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t control my impulse to shop and spend money.
One of the things that helped me work through my shopping issues was understanding the psychology behind why people like to shop. Knowing the psychological reasons for my desire to accumulate things and spend my paycheck on new clothes helped me learn that there were actually other forces at play. And these forces were psychological and completely out of my control.
I worked hard to understand what was subconsciously driving me to spend all my money on shopping and eventually I learned to success regain self control. I’ve gathered some of my best tips below to help others on similar journeys. If I can do it, anyone can.
- Spending money gives our brains a dopamine hit
Dopamine is a chemical in our brains that makes us feel happy. Taking certain actions causes out brains to release this chemical, making us feel happy. We get addicted to this feeling, and because dopamine makes us feel happy when we buy something, someone can easily become addicted to shopping.
Here’s the secret (this helped me so much with my own shopping addiction!) – The dopamine hits our brains before we make the purchase. It’s actually as we’re anticipating the item and the moments before we enter our credit card info or swipe our credit card. By the time we obtain the item the dopamine hit has already happened.
This explains why you may be so happy about something in the store but you leave it in the bag for a long time when you get it home. You felt great looking at the item right before you actually bought it because of those chemicals in your brain. But those chemicals might have tricked you into buying something you didn’t actually want.
- Everyone has different reasons for why they shop
Everyone shops for different reasons that motivate them personally. This could be a desire to look wealthy. Someone could have shopped a lot with a parent as a child and as an adult they want to relive that fun memory. There could be a million different reasons that people love to shop.
Understanding the reason why you personally like to shop can help you get over a shopping addiction. If you understand your personal reasons for shopping you’ll understand your triggers and can make conscious decisions to avoid them and make more intelligent shopping decisions.
- We have a natural desire to fill the spaces we live in
Humans love to fill the space they live in with stuff. If you move from a small apartment to an apartment twice the size, what are you going to do? You’ll likely want to fill the empty space with new stuff. And if you move to an even bigger space you’ll want to buy more stuff to fill that.
We psychologically want to fill empty space. But this can lead someone down a slippery slope where they buy so much stuff they could start to feel overwhelmed.
The solution? Embrace empty space! Having empty space in your house can help you feel like you have space to breath. It can be very therapeutic. And by embracing empty space you’re more likely to be extra cautious about bringing new things into your home, which will mean you’ll be shopping less. That’s a win win!
- Shopping hauls have become so normalized we feel like it’s what we should do
On YouTube and social media and even on tv shows and in movies, we see people going on huge shopping sprees. This signals to us as consumers that this is normal. It feels like when we shop the goal is to buy as much stuff as possible. Buying so much stuff and going on shopping sprees seems to be the ‘cool’ thing to do for whatever reason.
Having awareness of haul culture as a social phenomenon can help you rise above it. If you know you don’t ‘have to’ buy a ton of stuff at once, that it’s just something people do on social media, and that it’s exaggerated for entertainment value, you won’t feel like it’s something you personally need to do. You can stick to just buying what you need and not buying things for the sake of buying things.
- We attach emotions to things
Have you ever wanted to commemorate an important event with a purchase? Like buying a piece of jewelry for an anniversary? Or buying a souvenir when on a vacation? You’re attaching emotions to physical objects, and this can get out of hand quickly.
Attaching emotions to things isn’t a bad thing. None of the examples I mentioned are bad. But you can absolutely go overboard if you think you need to buy something for every occasion. I used to buy a new outfit as often as I could to commemorate a friend’s birthday, a friend’s friend’s birthday.. you get the idea.
- Marketers know exactly how to get in your head
Marketing teams are paid to get your attention and to get you to buy stuff. And they’re super good at it.
Ads are designed to appeal to your emotions and tap into feelings you didn’t even know you had. Your actions are also tracked online, and your search history influences the ads that you see which makes them feel personalized to exactly what you’re interested in. It can feel like a product is following you around and you might eventually give in and buy it.
If you understand how marketing works, that the entire goal of a marketer is to get a product in front of you so you buy it, you can ignore advertisements. It can feel pretty powerful ignoring ads, and your wallet will thank you.
- It is so easy to buy stuff on the internet
We can go online and buy something in 2 minutes flat. We can choose fast shipping so that item is on our doorstep in 24 hours or less.
We naturally love instant gratification, so online shopping can make us feel satisfied with how quickly items get to us. We can get addicted to that feeling of instant gratification.
One thing that helped me was banning most online shopping. There were a few items in my regular rotation that were easier to get online, but I otherwise forced myself to shop in store. This made shopping a lot harder and more effort was needed because I had to drive to the store, look for the item, drive back.. it wasn’t as quick as shopping online. But I saw no ads after buying something in store and eventually I stopped buying so much stuff online.
Did you enjoy this post? Watch my video for a more detailed list!