Experts Claim Addiction to Online Shopping Should be Considered a Mental Illness
Fri, December 3, 2021

Experts Claim Addiction to Online Shopping Should be Considered a Mental Illness

Online shopping has exploded in recent years, with online sites and e-commerce businesses coming up with new ways to entice consumers to buy something from them / Photo by: gpointstudio via Shutterstock

 

The holiday season is the perfect excuse for many to splurge their end-of-year salary and bonuses. Most people would spend their money to buy gifts for loved ones, while others spend on themselves as a reward for getting through the year. However, some people don't need the holidays to spend so much—especially with the convenience of shopping using their phones.

Online shopping has exploded in recent years, with online sites and e-commerce businesses coming up with new ways to entice consumers to buy something from them. It does make shopping a lot less stressful, but the convenience of online transactions has become so addicting and—for some—uncontrollable that psychiatrists are calling to recognize it as a mental health condition.

The Convenience of Online Shopping

The rise of e-commerce comes with an increase in the number of online shoppers worldwide. As of 2019, there are 1.92 billion digital buyers worldwide and that number is bound to increase to over 2.14 billion in 2021, according to estimates from online portal for statistics Statista.

Aside from the convenience, digital buyers make online purchases because of the competitive price that some e-commerce platforms offer. A range of digital resources like brand emails and product reviews are also key influences for these transactions. The growing range of devices with internet connections also makes it easier to purchase products anywhere using any device at any given time.

The number of payment methods available is also an enticing factor, as per Statista. In its recent survey, the statistics portal found that 42% of online shoppers prefer using credit cards in their digital transactions followed by PayPal (39%) and debit cards (28%). Others still opt to use real money for payments through cash on delivery (23%) while some prefer bank transfers (20%).

With the growing number of digital buyers, the e-commerce business is expected to have a total global share of retail sales of 22% in 2023, with India having the largest compound annual growth rate of 17.8%.

Projections on the online shopping space are all positive for the global economy, but the expanding industry is taking a toll on its consumers.

Buying-Shopping Disorder

For decades, experts have recognized people's addiction to shopping. The condition has been dubbed as "buying-shopping disorder" or BSD but experts say the term is taking on a new meaning with the introduction of the internet.

The Daily Mail reports that the condition now affects one in 20 people, who are said to be obsessed with online splurging on products. This behavior could not only form hoarders but also lead digital buyers into debt, conflicts with loved ones, and a complete loss of self-control.

Astrid Müller, a psychotherapist at Hannover Medical School in Germany, believes that the condition has been unrecognized for too long. "It really is time to recognize BSD as [a] separate mental health condition and to accumulate further knowledge about BSD on the Internet," she said.

Müller and her colleagues looked at results from 122 patients who sought help to resolve their addiction to online shopping. They found that these patients have higher rates of depression and anxiety than usual. The researchers believe the convenience of online shopping indicates that younger people are more prone to show signs of BSD.

The condition is currently not classified as a disorder on its own and is merely a part of a category known as "other specified impulse control disorder," according to the Daily Mail. However, the researchers believe it needs more serious attention as it currently affects 5% of the population.

For decades, experts have recognized people's addiction to shopping. The condition has been dubbed as "buying-shopping disorder" or BSD but experts say the term is taking on a new meaning with the introduction of the internet / Photo by: Kaspars Grinvalds via Shutterstock

 

A Loop of Extremes

Affordability, easy access, and even anonymity are some of the key factors why it's so easy to become addicted to online shopping. BSD, specifically its digital form, can lead to "a loop of extreme cravings for buying things and satisfaction when spending money," as per the Daily Mail.

Those with BSD often purchase more products than they can afford, need, or use to get that pleasure from shopping. It's also their way of staving off negative feelings. However, this ease to satisfy their online cravings is what's heightening their issues and causing problematic addiction.

Their need to buy things to get that satisfaction can lead online shoppers to a breakdown of their self-control, extreme distress, conflicts with relationships, physical clutter, and accumulating debt. The condition may also happen along with other disorders (mood, eating, or anxiety) and even substance abuse.

Müller and her colleagues hope the results of their study will drive for future work to resolve the "distinct phenomenological characteristics, underlying features, associated comorbidity, and specific treatment concepts."

Technological trends today provide people with the convenience they long crave while helping drive the global economy. But that convenience and progress should not come at the expense of the consumers' mental health—especially if these effects occur in conditions that are overlooked.