In Parts 1 & 2 we covered some obvious signs of shopaholism, as well as some of the basic reasons. In this blog we dive a bit deeper into the key drivers of the behavior. Find out if one of the triggers outlined below is driving you to shop ‘til you drop!

Triggers are an event, situation or feeling that encourage an individual to behave a certain way. Triggers are developed over time in our minds based on past experiences and associations. We all have some! One of the differences between a shopaholic and an average purchaser is the frequency that they shop based on triggers versus true need for an item. These Shopaholic triggers below are taken from “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Over Shop and How to Stop” by April Lane Benson, PhD (2008). Further explanation has been provided by this blogger:

Situational Triggers: Sale signs, magazine ads, or even bad weather such as rain or heat that could prevent interest in other activities may trigger a shopaholic.

Cognitive Triggers: Cognitive means human mental thought processes. If a shopaholic is feeling guilty and trying to avoid a situation or forget about it – voila! She’ll go shopping. Or, a shopaholic may feel she deserves a reward after doing something well.

Interpersonal Triggers: Relationships with other people can also be triggers. A shopaholic may need to get to the mall after a fight with a dear friend or hubby. She may also have a need to boost her self-esteem by impressing peers with a new bag, watch, shoes…you name it. Or she may just enjoy the interaction with a nice, attentive sales person and decide to make a purchase. The point here is that it’s not a one-time effect – a shopaholic will react to triggers repeatedly.

Emotional Triggers: These triggers are pretty self-explanatory. A shopaholic can experience any of these emotions, from being excited about things going her way, to being lonely or sad and needing a pick-me-up, to being really stressed and needing to take control of her life by buying what she wants.

Physical Trigger: Binge eating, addiction to alcohol and gambling are also compulsive behaviors. An urge to shop may be a substitution for these.

Triggers for a compulsive shopper will vary for each individual. The idea is to help identify the triggers that most often encourage us to go buy. Self-awareness is the first stage to changing our behavior. What are your triggers?

Part 4 talks about how to recognize the fallout from excessive ‘retail therapy’ or shopaholism. If we can’t always see the triggers, we can usually see the inevitable results.

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a web site for women focused on the psychology of money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Thoughts always welcome: carrierattle@behavioralcents.com.

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