Buying yourself something new feels good.
Even if it's only a bottle of nail polish or a new notebook, the act of treating yourself to something is often accompanied by a little rush of pleasure.
It's like your brain is lighting up and saying: 'This is new. I like this. It's a present for me!'
That pleasure doesn't last forever.
For some people, it drains away very quickly – in two or three days time, when they bring their item home, when they leave the shop, or even directly after they've paid for their new purchase.
They won't receive that same dopamine hit until they go out and buy something else.
Shopping has a tangible effect on the brain, with the chemical dopamine surging when you're anticipating a new purchase. The pleasure of retail therapy comes from dopamine, and the spike is even more intense when there's an unexpected bonus involved – like getting money off a garment or seeing that the shop you're in has a sale on.
Before we even think about buying something, our brains are bathed in the warm glow of pleasure, so is it any wonder that we sometimes buy things we don't actually need?
In a 2007 study, neuroscientists found that when they presented subjects with a range of products, the nucleus accumbens (or the brain's pleasure centre) became more active.
When the products were accompanied by their prices, the prefrontal cortex and the insula lit up. These are the areas of the brain associated with executive functioning (decision-making) and processing pain respectively.
The subjects were calculating whether they could afford the item, making buying decisions in their heads and anticipating the pain of handing over their hard-earned cash.
When the activity in the brain's pleasure centre outweighs that of the insula, where pain is processed, then the person in question is more likely to make the purchase.
People enjoy shopping precisely because of all this chemical activity, as the increase of dopamine conjures up powerful feelings of reward and motivation, but this pleasure usually remains balanced by practical financial considerations and the knowledge that overspending hurts.
When this process gets out of balance and people become addicted to the pleasure sensation of spending, this can turn into a full-blown shopping addiction, also known as oniomania or compulsive buying disorder (CBD).
Compulsive spending is believed to affect 8-16% of the UK population – a staggering 8 million people. It can leave sufferers in the same financial chaos as is apparent for people with gambling addictions.
Oniomania gets in the way of healthy, fulfilling relationships with friends and family and can lead to people hiding their purchases because they're ashamed of being unable to control their spending habits.
Sufferers use shopping as a way to deal with negative emotions, and may feel distressed when they're not spending money.
They may go to extreme lengths to keep what they're bought a secret, having packages sent to workplaces or using click and collect options to stop their partners or families from seeing parcels from online shopping arriving at home.
Compulsive buying is linked to psychiatric conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and bipolar disorder.
Unlike being a 'shopaholic', where you occasionally overspend but know that you can control your habits, people with oniomania feel completely ruled by the compulsion to purchase things ad spend money.
But when does enjoying buying yourself nice things become cause for concern?
Rosie* is 21 and she knows she buys more than she really needs to.
She told Metro.co.uk: 'I get the urge to buy at least one item of clothing a week.
'There's this exhilarating rush when I buy something, but it dissipates the next day or as soon as I've tried it on.
'I do feel in control but sometimes the urge to buy something alongside the feeling that this item will make me more beautiful or more likeable is sometimes too strong to resist.
'My urge to keep shopping is probably rooted in self-esteem issues. I get the idea into my head that buying clothes especially will make me feel more desirable to others, more confident more and powerful, essentially remedying feelings of low self worth that I struggle with.
'At the moment, I'm challenging myself to only buy vintage items if I want to buy something because the pieces are more special, higher quality and it's better for the environment.'
Rosie's boyfriend and her family are not aware of the true extent of how much she buys, including clothes, shoes, jewellery, makeup and skincare products.
She's trying to cut down on her spending, but finding it tricky to stop buying altogether, particularly on apps like eBay and Depop.
Online shopping, auction-style websites and apps for major retailers have made it much easier to spend 24/7, without having to leave the house (or get up out of bed).
Adam Cox , a Harley Street hypnotherapist and addiction expert, told Metro.co.uk that he has worked with many shopping addicts.
'I know firsthand that it's not only genuine but can cause harm especially with relationships, anxiety and issues with debt.
'I define a shopping addiction as a compulsion to buy things to change an emotional state.'
When should someone be worried about that their spending is becoming an addiction?'
According to Adam, the warning signs are: 'Accumulating debt such as credit cards to cover the cost of shopping, buying too many of the same thing but never or rarely using them, and using shopping (including online) as a way to deal with emotions such as boredom, stress, anxiety or depression.'
'Shopping at times when you have other responsibilities is another sign. Many people are shopping from their phones at work rather than working.
'Also if you realise that you've bought things by looking at your statement but can't remember buying them, that's a clear warning that something isn't right.'
Adam says that it's definitely possible to recover from compulsive buying disorder.
'The first step is to realise that shopping is just a vehicle to change your emotional state. Once you understand this, you can think of all the things you've done previously that made you feel better that didn't involve spending money.
'This could be time with friends, listening music, walking in the sun. Many things can change our emotional state, and some of the best ones are completely free.
'Try actually using the things you've bought instead of buying new ones.
'If you're still struggling, I would recommend making an appointment with an addiction expert or hypnotherapist.'
The NHS says that shopping becomes an addiction when you buy things you don't need or want to achieve a buzz, and this is quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair.
If this sounds like you, it could be worth making an appointment with your GP to discuss how you're feeling. Your doctor will then refer you on to the appropriate services.
There's nothing wrong with buying yourself a little treat as a pick-me-up after a difficult week at work.
However, if your response to stress is always to buy something, then you might want to think about some different ways you can manage negative or uncomfortable emotions.
*name has been changed
Need support? Contact the Samaritans
- If You Buy One Thing on Cyber Monday, Make It Parachute’s Plush Mattress Topper
- Best period pants for 2021 - top rated options you can buy online now
- How model foodies Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw keep their weekly grocery shop under $50 - WITHOUT eating tuna and rice every day
- Best cloth face masks to buy in the UK for 2021
- Super last minute Christmas gift cards if you've not made it to the shops
- Woman uses codes printed on food packets to help cut her shopping bill in half
- Save £100 when you buy Dyson personal fan and Airwrap styler together
- PS5 Restock Updates for Target, Walmart, Best Buy and More
- Wedding Gifts to Buy When Your Friend’s Registry Is Sold Out: Under $50 Edition
- Best Buy laptop deals: The best offers for January 2021
- Rihanna shows off her slender legs in tiny shorts on late night shopping trip
- Bilara villagers mobilise against addiction
- Kind-hearted IT store employees buy Nintendo Wii for boy who came into shop every day to play it on demo mode
- Fukubukuro: What's behind Japan's 'lucky shopping bags' custom?
- A poser with money to burn. A flaming fashionista. Or a bargain sniffer...What does YOUR candle say about you?
- Best pillows to buy in the UK for 2020 - including memory foam options
- Auto trends of 2020: Online buying, electric trucks and SUVs go off-road again
- We live off Christmas leftovers for a week – I buy the biggest turkey in October & don’t shop again until Jan
- Daughter 'red-faced' after buying dad Christmas 'ornament' - which was a memorial
- Mum who saved £25,000 through her no-buy year reveals how you can do the same in 2021
When does buying yourself nice things become a shopping addiction? have 1620 words, post on metro.co.uk at August 7, 2018. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.