Christmas shopping: excessive or compulsive?

Christmas is a period strongly linked to consumption, A time of year when people are allowed to make an additional expense.

The motivation to buy for Christmas is not so much born of need or pleasure (as is the case in other times), but mainly comes from the commitment to satisfy others. In other words, we bought gifts, decorations, nougat and lotteries out of custom and social pressure.

    Christmas: a phenomenon linked to consumption

    The French sociologist and philosopher Emile Durkheim has stressed throughout his works the importance of ritual celebrations in integration and social cohesion. In this perspective, Christmas is accompanied by festivities that reinforce beliefs, values ​​and, above all, commitment to the group, of which the family is the main unit.

    In this line, experts in neuroscience and neuromarketing emphasize the role of the “emotional cloud” that permeates the environment on these dates and that it plays a decisive role in encouraging purchasing behavior.

    According to a study published by the British Medical Journal, the brain associates all manner of Christmas-related stimuli with false optimism and a state of happiness that companies participate in to encourage consumption.

    Thus, brands use the scents of chestnut, vanilla or cinnamon to set the mood of their premises, sonorous songs to move consumers towards their childhood and decorate their spaces with lights and colors such as red and red. gold which are associated with wealth, power and delusion. . All these signs, added to the advertising campaigns, the effects of the offers, the immediacy of the Internet purchase and the emotional meaning of Christmas, they are the perfect breeding ground to “go hand in hand” and we spend a lot of money which are often above the previously planned budget.

    While Christmas is one of the times of the year when mass consumption also occurs now is the perfect time for mental health issues like compulsive shopping disorder to go unnoticedAn addiction problem that works very similar to drug addiction.

      What are the differences between over-buying and compulsive buying?

      It is important distinguish between compulsive shopping that occurs among shopaholics and over-shopping that occurs during Christmas sales periods.

      A person’s relationship with their buying behavior can be more or less problematic. A healthy buyer is one who is generally able to modulate his desire to buy. Although some dates (such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or an anniversary) may exceed the cost or, although sometimes carried away by their impulses, the healthy consumer is able to control himself and leads a moderately functional life (the shopping is not a restriction on your freedom).

      however, a pathological (addicted) buyer is one who is unable to curb his impulsivity. Feel a strong loss of control over the desire to acquire a good or a service and to organize your life around the purchase.

      Thus, the compulsive buyer has an addictive relationship with the purchase, as he uses it as a means of compensation to deal with other problems that are hidden under this symptom (often anxiety, depression, eating disorders). , etc.).).

      Thomas O’Guinn and Ronald J. Faber, expert psychologists in the field, suggest a number of qualitative differences which separate a “healthy” consumer from a “pathological” consumer. These are as follows.

      1. The motivations

      Healthy consumers buy products for their functional benefits. For example, they buy food out of necessity, buy clothes to look better, and give gifts to strengthen their relationships.

      Drug addicts, on the other hand, purchase goods and services because of the emotional effects associated with the purchasing process itself.. They enjoy, avoid thinking about problems and feel unpleasant emotions, experience relief, feel in company when interacting with store staff and reinforce their value by being able to “acquire” what they want. . Pathological consumers buy to buy for the sole purpose of gaining the experience.

      2. Control during the purchasing process

      Healthy buyers usually plan their purchases. They have an idea of ​​what they need or want to acquire and go looking for it. While it is true that they are sometimes driven by desire and motivation, control and the ability to modulate spending usually predominate.

      Compulsive shoppers, however, process products in an uncontrolled and impulsive manner, without realizing the consequences. and expenses – often money they don’t have (they often go into debt, apply for bank loans, or steal loved ones). During the buying process, these people experience extremely intense emotions, such as euphoria and pleasure.

      3. The use of the products and the post-purchase consequences

      At the end of the purchase of a product, healthy buyers are more or less satisfied with the function of the product. and they keep it and use it or return it, which doesn’t have a great emotional effect.

      Compulsive shoppers often experience powerful emotions which can be pleasant (like a sense of worth) or unpleasant (like shame or guilt) and both they tend to accumulate them and hide them without even using them. It is important to understand that these people are not looking to use the function of the purchased items, but the effects of going out to acquire it, that is, the buying process, not the object and its function.

      Faced with alarm signals, it is necessary to call a professional

      While excessive shopping can lead to a small hole in your wallet that spans certain dates like Christmas, Compulsive shopping is a serious psychological illness that is part of impulse control disorder and that it has major consequences at the intra-personal level (depression, very low self-esteem, deterioration of social relations, loss of employment, etc.) and at the interpersonal level (debts, cheating, family problems, etc.) ).

      If you think you have an impulse control disorder associated with shopping, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. If you wish, you can find out on our website www.centrotap.es or send an email to [email protected]

      Author: Laura Coronel Hernández, health psychologist and member of the TAP Center.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hougaard, A., Lindberg, U., Arngrim, N., Larsson, H., Olesen, J., Amin, FM, Ashina, M., and Haddock, B. (2015). Evidence of a network of Christmas spirits in the brain: a functional MRI study. British Medical Journal, 351: h6266. doi: 10.1136 / bmj.h6266
      • O´ Guinn, T. and Faber, RJ (1989). Compulsively buying a phenomenological explanation. Journal of Consumer Research, 16: pages 147-137.

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