The science behind being addicted to shopping - and how you’re being played by the fashion industry.

It’s time for someone to come clean and let you guys in on how you’re being severely ripped off whenever buying something with a price point almost too-good-to-be-true.
Mainstream fashion brands will hate me for telling you this, looks like I’m going to anyway...

I’ve always found it absurd how much the price point jumps between a good quality/ high end item and its budget affordable-to-everyone imitations. As we know, online shopping is taking over in the retail industry - it is now more accessible and affordable than ever to buy things… despite the fact that they have to travel across the world to get to us. With all of our imaginable desires just a click of a button away and at ridiculously low price points, online shopping addictions and impulse buying is a huge problem. With 24/7 access to the digital market, all around the globe without any physical effort required from consumers - it's a recipe for disaster..

Why is this a problem?

Well for starters, most consumers can admit to buying items that they:

1. do not need 

and 

2. may not even use 

When a product is presented to its target consumer (through data tracking of your preferences - we will get into this another time..) with an attractively lower than expected price point it is extremely difficult for consumers to resist. Especially consumers that shop online regularly. The reason behind this actually has less to do with the product and more with our biochemistry and our brains. We may not think that we’re thinking when we impulse buy but what we don’t realise is how addicted we become to the feeling of buying. 

When you buy something, you realise a hormone called dopamine. For those that didn’t take the hormones 101 class - dopamine is actually a neurotransmitter that is made by the body for the nervous system and it is needed to send messages between nerve cells. English? ok… it is a chemical messenger that enables us to experience pleasure. Long story short dopamine released = pleasure hit…. so when you buy something, you feel good. (it’s science). 

BUT WAIT, there’s more…

When you buy something online you get an additional dopamine hit when it arrives and when you unbox it which effectively makes the online shopping experience even more pleasurable, so you can now understand why online shopping has quickly become more addictive. 

And don't think for a second that these big corporations don't know this already. They do, and they have been using it to their advantage by figuring out exactly how to market and sell to you so that it's almost impossible for you to resist. It’s not personal, its business baby $$$$. 

But when the health of our environment is at stake, it kind of feels personal to me… forget being manipulated into buying low quality goods that are falsely marketed, the repercussions of fast fashion are so harmful to the environment and yet we have been conditioned into being addicted to paying for this to happen. Pretty messed up if you ask me.

 

What is the value of that item to you, really? 

Buying a cheap item of clothing doesn’t really give you any long term benefits from the purchase. You may have a few short lived dopamine hits and a new outfit for one night but surely investing into good quality items and gradually collecting a wardrobe full of garments that you love and wear continually is a better approach to creating your dream wardrobe.

I think one day we are going to look back on a lot of things we are currently doing and be horrified, and I believe that fast fashion practices is going to be one of those things. 

Still not convinced? 

Here are a few more comparisons that may incite you towards being a more conscious consumer. 

 

Sources:

  • Aboujaoude E. (2017). The Internet's effect on personality traits: An important casualty of the "Internet addiction" paradigm. Journal of behavioral addictions6(1), 1–4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24001296/
  • Lejoyeux, M., & Weinstein, A. (2010). Compulsive buying. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse36(5), 248–253. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20560822/ 
  • Müller, A., Claes, L., & Kyrios, M. (2020). Object attachment in buying-shopping disorder. Current opinion in psychology39, 115–120. Advance online publication. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33011674/
  • Rose, S., & Dhandayudham, A. (2014). Towards an understanding of Internet-based problem shopping behaviour: The concept of online shopping addiction and its proposed predictors. Journal of behavioral addictions3(2), 83–89. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25215218/
  • Zhang, C., Brook, J. S., Leukefeld, C. G., & Brook, D. W. (2016). Associations between compulsive buying and substance dependence/abuse, major depressive episodes, and generalized anxiety disorder among men and women. Journal of addictive diseases35(4), 298–304. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27215919/

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