Shop till you drop?

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Summer sales just ended a few days ago. In just over a month, the Braderie will take place. Year after year, Luxembourgers spend more and more money on things. For about five to ten percent of the population, however, shopping is not a means to an end: they are addicted to shopping, or at high risk of becoming addicted.

Shopping seems to be the most normal thing in the world. Food has to be put on the table, hole-ridden socks should be replaced and the new CD of the favourite artist could be a nice acquisition. Advertisements creep into every part of life, inviting the subconscious to fill that shopping trolley just a little more. Most people see shopping itself as a necessary step to get goods and services – whether they need them or "need" them. For people addicted to shopping, however, shopping takes on a life of its own. Dr. Andreas König works at the counselling centre "ausgespillt" of the asbl "Anonym Glécksspiller" and reports of people who literally shop until they can no longer carry the shopping bags – sometimes without ever opening the boxes afterwards. A situation from which it is not easy to break out, also because of the "desolate situation" affected people face in Luxembourg.

Lëtzebuerger Journal: What exactly is shopping addiction?

Dr. Andreas König: Whether pathological buying is actually an addiction, a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder or impulse control disorder is still disputed. We understand it to mean buying that is no longer linked to one's own actual need or the purpose of the product or service. Rather, it serves to compensate for unpleasant emotional states. One is obsessively preoccupied with buying, has an irresistible urge to buy and loses control, so that consumption derails. The spectrum is broad: from occasional shopping sprees to a complete crash with completely derailed consumption, high levels of debt, acquisitive crime and forgery in order to be able to continue buying.

So we are not talking about the consumption of specific products, but about consumption in and of itself. People are not only addicted to buying clothes, for example?

Shopping addicts are more concerned with the act of buying as a process, less with the products themselves. Therefore, the range of products is usually wide. However, there are often individual focal points, such as luxury accessories.

An example is a client who scours the perfumery for the latest fragrance, is congratulated by the saleswoman for a good choice and then moves on through fashion boutiques, antique dealers and jewellers until she cannot carry any more bags. A few days later, during the next shopping spree, she then visits other shops, in order not to be noticed. This client has used up over 100,000 euros in reserves and has many thousands of euros in consumer loans and instalment payments running, from which she intercepts the payment reminders and has her orders delivered to her parents, so that her husband doesn't discover what's going on. For men, it's often the latest technical gadgets, several high-end smartphones, laptops and so on. Although there are also men with closets full of designer suits and boxes full of brand-name clothes that have been worn once or still have the tag hanging on them. However, shopping addiction is not simply the lifestyle phenomenon of a consumer society that has gotten out of hand, but a psychological disorder in the course of which psychological, social and financial problems become more and more acute.

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