These findings all seem to suggest that compulsive shopping is a way of raising self-esteem and enhancing positive affect.It is because of these similarities that compulsive shopping has been studied by some researchers in relation to other impulse control disorders and related addiction disorders. This has given rise to the Psychiatric perspective (or Clinical model) of shopping addiction. Oï¿½Guinn and Faber explore the issue of compulsive buying framed within the larger category of compulsive consumption.
Their results indicate that people whon buy compulsively are “more likely to demonstrate compulsivity as a personality trait, have lower self- esteem and be more prone to fantasy than normal consumers” (p155). They make the point that their primary motivation seems to come from the psychological benifits rather than the actual objects form or function. (Oï¿½Guinn and Faber 1989) It could be suggested therefore that compulsive buying represents one form of a broader category of compulsive behaviours. Compulsive buying does in fact share phenomenological features with impulse-control, obsessive-compulsive and substance abuse disorders.
It is included in the DSM-IV category under “impulse control disorders not otherwise specified.” Consistent with this idea of a broader cache of consumtion disorders, are indications that people who have one disorder are much more at risk for developing other disorders. This is called co-morbidity in psychiatric terms. This can occur if “both disorders represent alternative responses to a similar set of underlying problems or if one disorder leads to another” (Krahn 1991, as cited by Faber et. al. 1995, p297) There are some studies which support this idea, by comparing the co-morbidity of certain disorders and compulsive buying.
The first of those described here is a comparison of the buying behaviour of depressed patients presenting with or without compulsive buying behaviour. It assesed the prevalance of compulsive buying and compared the “buying style” among majorly depressed patients with (CB+) and without (CB-)compulsive buying. They found that compulsive buying in depressed patients could be understood in terms of “compensatory buying” that temporarily relieves depressive symptoms and is preceded by hesitation and anxious rumination. The compensatory dimension of the purchase was corroborated by the fact that the CB+ group most often brought gifts to themselves and others (Le Joyeux et al. 1999)
Seen in this way shopping can be compared to a food binge in Bulimia or the compulsive acts and rituals in obsessive compulsive disorder to relieve anxiety and perhaps act as a “fix” to combat negative affect. (Although some compulsive shoppers do report a feeling of “high” or a buzz that is similar to that of drug users suggesting an addiction framework is needed rather than a compulsiï¿½n one). Likewise Compulsive buying can be compared to gambling and eating disorders because they are not technically physically addictive. Over the last few decades there has been an increase in interest in consumption disorders.
Usually this focuses on shoplifting, alcoholism, drug addiction and compulsive sexuality. (Oï¿½Guinn and Faber 1989) A study by Faber et al (1995) examined two forms of compulsive consumption: co-morbidity of compuklsive buying and binge eating. It was foung that women diagnosed as having binge eating disorder had significantly greater compulsive buying tendancies than non-binge eaters of a similar weight. They also established that compulsive buyers were more likely to have engaged in binge eating, had more symptoms characteristic of both binge eating disorder and Bulimia Nervosa, and were more likely to be clinically diagnosed as having an eating disorder than a matched control group.
In essence then all the research discussed above indicates that if one is prone to negative affect, low self-esteem or the like, then the individuals internal belief systems, cultural beliefs, socioeconomic status or background would be a determinant of what a persons “poison” would be, whether it be food, possesions or sex. Dittmar et. al. (1996) demonstrated this web in the peper discussed before looking at self-discrepancies and shopping.
The low self-esteem element seems to be an important contributing factor in addictive disorders but high levels of materialism seem to create compulsive shoppers because possesions seem to mean much more to them than ordinary shoppers. In other words, if someone was a very utilitarian shopper (Babin et. al. 1994) perhaps a male who took pleasure in visiting casinos or bars (or used them to “unwind”), suffered from large self-discrepancies and negative affect but low materialism – he might become a gambling addict or an alcoholic. Furby described the theory of meaning and function of possesions throughout the life cycle.
He found that people viewed possesions as an “extention of the individual” that helps define individuality. This supports the idea that with compulsive shoppers possesions are their “poison” and enhance self-esteem. Furby goes on to suggest that “Establishing a sense of self identity is certanly a social phenomenon – it must be done vis-a-vis other individuals” (Furby, 1978. p 37) Since possesions are viewed as an extensiï¿½n of one person and since society values posessions and consumption (Otto 1975. As cited by Furby 1978)