An Addiction Called Online Shopping

It always begins with the innocent ‘I’m only browsing, just checking if they have updated anything new?’  But the danger comes even before you realize with ‘Oh my God, look at that, isn’t this cute? Something I have been looking for, I have to have it!’ Period. All this can happen really fast. And before you know, you have placed another order online!

How do online businesses nudge us towards their shopping carts without even making an extra effort? It’s like taking a stroll at a mall and stopping for window shopping at your favourite stores only. Online stores nowadays operate in the same manner; they grab our attention without us knowing. The targeted and sponsored online advertisement by Google is any online business owners’ wildest dream coming to life. Google web crawlers are much smarter now than ever, they show you the results based on your browsing history. These targeted web searches, have the power to quite easily divert you into something else while you are innocently browsing on Facebook. That pair of jeans you were checking last week can suddenly pop in the corner of your screen like a stealth shopping mousetrap.


Oniomania is getting addicted into buying things with an uncontrollable urge that can manifest itself into serious preoccupation, with buying and shopping, despite the negative consequences involved. Addiction to shopping is like any other addiction, compulsive buyers too experience extreme highs followed by severe lows, feelings of happiness, contentment, sadness, disappointments, regrets and anger. Such addictions cannot only affect financial situation but can have adverse effects on personal relationships as well.

For anyone who is still unsure, here are 11 signs to prove you have a compulsive online shopping disorder.

  1. You always have multiple tabs open in your web browser, waiting for you to click purchase.
  2. You have daily routine of checking online retail websites to see their flash deals every second hour a day.
  3. You get more promotional emails than real emails. Also who cares about other emails anyway?
  4. You have downloaded all the imaginable mobile shopping apps on your phone. What good a smart phone is for otherwise?
  5. You have accidently bought the same product twice. Blessings of purchasing from multiple websites at the same time.
  6. You are always waiting for the delivery man first thing in the morning. Everything else comes next.
  7. Your heart skips a beat when you get store emails announcing a sale. ‘I gotta rush!’
  8. Your trash is perpetually overflowing with large cardboard boxes.
  9. You secretly shop online at work. Of course, can’t afford to miss a super deal!
  10. You get packages in the mail that you forgot you even ordered.
  11. You are a nervous wreck when your online order isn’t what you expected it to be.

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Social scientists believe online shopping addiction is a form of behavioural addiction, they put this into two major categories: cue-reactivity and cravings. Cue-reactivity can be defined as excitement buyers get from standing in the shopping queues. But in order to influence a person into buying something, there has to be some craving, something that grabs their attention instantly. Online shopping websites work in the same manner, they divert your mind into believing the purchase is a must-have essential. Also since online shopping is an anonymous experience, and without handing over the cash, it’s quite easy to believe like you aren’t actually spending money.

Online shopping has gained momentum in Pakistan as well, with popular websites like Daraz, Kayme, Pakstyle, Lootlo, Telemart, Homeshopping, Turbooz, Shophive, Yayvo leading the game. Besides these retail portals almost all the local store websites now offer online shipping to local and international buyers at minimum to low delivery charges. Many websites offer proper exchange forms and some even allow convenience of free store exchanges. With such easy accessibility and online stores never closes slogan shouting at the top of our heads, can easily lead to regular cravings for shopping. It’s no surprise that online shopping cultivates satisfaction in people who like tons of variety.

Has your online shopping fantasy turned into an addiction? Are you unable to stop spending money even though you have a burning hole in your pocket? Is your addiction affecting your personal relationships? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, we offer you 6 quick tips to help you and your loved ones to control the urge of compulsive spending.

1. Say adios to promotional emails
Unsubscribe from all the promotional emails. Such emails are a quick trap, marking them as trash or spam would not work, instead go to every single promotional email you receive, and unsubscribe from them completely.

2. Delete mobile shopping apps
Shopping apps are convenient but they are also addictive. With control just at the tap of your finger tip, it often takes just one or two taps to complete a purchase.

3. Make cash your new best friend
Revive the old habit of paying in cash. When you take out money from the wallet and pay in full, you get the feeling of actually spending the money, unlike paying through cards. You will be much less likely to go on a binge shopping spree if you have got limited money to spend.

4. Block access to online distractions
Use web filters and block internet access to your favourite shopping websites. Let someone else pick the password for you, so you won’t get tempted to disable them again.

5. Record your spending
When you write down every bit of detail about the money spent, you become more conscious of your spending.

6. Be socially active
Retrain your brain; people often go into binge online buying to reduce sadness or to avoid social interactions. Instead of retail therapy, fill your life with social connections. Meet friends, read a book, get involved in reinvigorating yoga or aerobics, volunteer somewhere, try be more socially active.

Overcoming binge buying is entirely possible but don’t expect miracles. Just like breaking free from any other habit requires lot of time and effort, shopping addiction is no different. Temptations and relapses can happen too but with patience and perseverance you can defeat this addiction.

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