A dangerous addiction

A dangerous addiction

Today is a much-awaited day for some, but it is also a day to waste money for others.

It's the fourth day of the fourth month, and like the fifth day of the fifth month, and the sixth day of the sixth month and so on, there are 12 days in a year when shoppers are tempted by online sales and irresistible promotions.

Any day will do though for shopaholics who can simply scroll and drop items into a shopping cart. Before they know it, parcels of purchased items pile up along with escalating bills.

Before the pandemic, I never shopped on digital platforms, but like for many others, Covid-19 changed that. Online shopping became a big part of the "new normal" as people were stuck at home.

The health crisis spurred a boom in global e-commerce as consumers shopped online, often out of necessity.

Earlier this year, a leading provider of market and consumer data Statista shared its latest insights on e-commerce.

The report mentioned how in early 2020, when people stayed home to contain the spread of the virus, digital channels became a popular alternative to physical stores and in-person shopping.

One of last year's biggest trends was the unprecedented usage of mobile devices. Smartphones accounted for almost 70% of all retail website visits, whereas in 2020 desktop and tablet visits generated higher conversion rates.

Statista noted that "m-commerce" is particularly popular across Asia, with countries like South Korea generating up to 65% of their total online transaction volume via mobile traffic.

Regarding shopping behaviour, its survey identified a series of actions preceding the actual purchase. One in two online consumers browsed Amazon or search engines to get inspiration for products. A significant number of respondents made a purchasing decision after reading up to six product reviews.

As the internet allows 24/7 retail therapy, consumers can easily buy almost anything in the comfort of their homes. They may spend more time browsing the web with an overwhelming urge to buy for immediate gratification.

Some housewives even hide delivered goods so that their husbands won't know of the purchase.

The constant preoccupation becomes an addiction. German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin first defined compulsive purchasing as a problem, with the "buying maniacs" afflicted with oniomania (onios is a Greek word meaning sale).

Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler expanded on Kraepelin's description and identified the uncontrollable and impulsive nature of the symptoms in his textbook published in 1924.

So for over a century, it has been considered a psychological issue, referred to as spendaholism, compulsive consumption, addictive buying, compulsive buying-shopping disorder (CBSD) and other terms.

But to date, a lack of diagnostic criteria hinders research advances in this field.

However, international researchers and clinicians outlined it in "Proposed Diagnostic Criteria For Compulsive Buying-Shopping Disorder: A Delphi Expert Consensus Study", published in the Journal Of Behavioral Addictions last July.

The diagnostic framework includes diminished control resulting in buying more things than necessary, excessive purchasing of items without utilising them, and buying to regulate internal states for pleasure or to relieve negative moods.

Another criteria is the maintenance or escalation of behaviours despite negative consequences, such as distress, guilt, regret, financial difficulties and loss of interest in other activities.

The research article concluded that the proposed candidate criteria can be used as the basis for the development of diagnostic interviews and measures of CBSD severity. Their clinical utility, reliability and validity should be addressed in future field studies.

Meanwhile, there is still a debate on making shopping addiction a psychiatric condition, which would open a new market for medical interventions.

However, self-awareness and control of one's behaviour can simply be a basic treatment to withdraw from the vicious purchasing cycle.

For the past two years, I must have been one of Kraepelin's buying maniacs, a secret shopper who had to rush to receive parcels from the postman so that my father didn't see them. I became a hoarder of unused items that disgustingly cluttered my bedroom.

The turning point came on New Year's Eve when I realised I didn't need all that stuff.

Instead, I became a seller to cure myself from what might have been CBSD and restore the figures in my bank account. And today, the 4:4 shopping campaign won't get any bucks from me.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Feature writer

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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