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Psychotherapists have argued online shopping addiction is a mental health condition that has gone unrecognised for far too long.
The claim comes after Dr Müller, a psychotherapist at Hannover Medical School in Germany, and her colleagues conducted a study with 122 patients who were seeking help for their online shopping addictions.
During the research, scientists found those struggling with the addiction had higher than usual rates of depression and anxiety.
The researchers believe the addiction has been heightened through the rise of online stores, apps and home delivery, which have added a whole new dimension to the concept of being a shopaholic. The internet never closes, so shoppers can indulge at all hours of the day without having to leave their home or interact with other people.
Often, online shops also offer a bigger range of deals than high street stores, giving keen customers better accessibility at more affordable prices.
The increased availability of products means ever-younger people are showing signs of buying-shopping disorder (BSD), which the researchers believe affects 5% of the population.
BSD has been recognised for decades, though it is not currently classified as a disorder of its own. Instead, it falls under a category named ‘other specified impulse control disorder’.
However, Dr Müller and her team believe the condition is taking on a new meaning in the internet age. They argue BSD has gone unrecognised for too long and that it deserves more serious attention as it is thought to have serious mental effects.
In the paper, which is published in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry, the team explain BSD, particularly the online form, can result in a loop of extreme cravings for buying things and satisfaction when spending money.
In turn, these cravings lead to a breakdown in self-control and ‘extreme distress’ as well as other psychiatric problems.
The disorder can also result in relationship difficulties, debt and physical clutter as shoppers may end up hoarding the things they buy.
Speaking of the findings, as per the MailOnline, Dr Müller said:
It really is time to recognise BSD as separate mental health condition and to accumulate further knowledge about BSD on the internet.
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.
The characteristics of compulsive shopping disorder include a preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items, difficulty resisting the purchase of unneeded items and financial difficulties because of uncontrolled shopping.
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