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Your Online Shopping Addiction Might Actually Be A Mental Health Issue

The experts have weighed in

We’ve all been there. The feeling of terror as you sneak past the kitchen, hoping that your partner somehow misses the larger-than-life cardboard box that you’re hiding in your coat. The look of disappointment the Australia Post delivery man gives you when he’s been to your house four times in the same week. We may joke with our friends about our slightly concerning (ok, very concerning) online shopping addictions, but experts are finally recognising the obsession for what they believe it really is – a mental health condition.

The concept of buying-shopping disorder (BSD) is hardly new, with research showing that about five percent of adults in developed countries are affected. What has impacted our insatiable obsession with purchasing consumer goods is the recent growth of e-commerce, shopping apps and home delivery that has added a new dimension to the issue. Researchers believe that the availability, anonymity, accessibility and affordability of online shopping through payment options like Afterpay has also contributed significantly to the development of an online subtype of BSD.

A new study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry revealed that from the 122 patients seeking help for their online shopping addiction, one third of patients were categorised as having probable online BSD. There was also a connection between patients exhibiting online BSD symptoms and higher levels of reported anxiety and depression.

The effects of BSD range from post-purchase guilt and regret, reduced quality of life, hoarding habits, family division, work issues and financial problems. Despite these negative consequences, BSD hasn’t been classified as a separate mental health condition yet, currently falling into the category of ‘other specified impulse control disorder’. 

“It really is time to recognise BSD as a separate mental health condition and to accumulate further knowledge about BSD on the internet,” lead researcher Dr Astrid Müller told the Daily Mail. 

“We hope that our results showing that the prevalence of addictive online shopping among treatment-seeking patients with BSD will encourage future research addressing the distinct phenomenological characteristics, underlying features, associated comorbidity and specific treatment concepts.”

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