Shopping mania or addiction?

Summer in Central Europe - swimming, sunbathing and... shopping. Summer sales have become so popular in Central Europe that some are beginning to ask: is shopping an addiction? The urge to buy, often took Slovaks to Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic or Hungary. But now, they can satisfy the craving at home. Is it harmful?

Psychologist Maria Bratska, from the Comenius University in Bratislava says sales can have positive as well as negative effects on people.

"For people who have low self-esteem and are liable to addictions, they can be dangerous, or trigger the shopping mania. For those who just buy things in sales because they cannot afford the full price, it is certainly good to shop in sales."

Sales are predominantly a manipulation from the side of retailers. Although it might seem that you are tricking the retailer by getting a smaller price, it is actually the exact opposite.

"Manipulation is when someone uses the weakness of others for his or her own purpose. For some customers to realise that they are being manipulated is often very hard to do. Often they only realise it after leaving the shop. I think many retailers operate with this kind of calculation."

...adds Maria Bratska, from the psychology department at the Comenius University in Bratislava. Such manipulations and developing shopping habits can even lead to an addiction. And believe it or not, pathological shopping, compulsive spending, or shopping addiction, are terms used in psychology.

"Research has shown that 2-10 % of the adult population, when shopping, have some compulsive tendencies. Often material things help to raise low self-confidence. Men are often caught up in unhealthy shopping for sports goods or electronic devices. Women tend more to buy things connected with their self-image, it can be cosmetics, clothes, jewellery... We have to say though that in terms of shopping addiction women greatly outnumber men."

Certainly retailers are happy that more and more people are getting used to shopping and even come here, to the Obchodna - Shopping street for a few hours after work. Our colleague Michal went to clothing stores to talk to retailers about it:

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
"We have more customers this year in comparison to the previous ones. I suppose it is because people have more money nowadays. We have male and female customers, although women take advantage of sales a bit more than men. Both men and women return goods back, but much more often it is the women."

"We have many customers. People take great advantage of the sales we offer. Families as such come to buy things on sale, but over all there are much more women shopping on sale. They are also the ones who return items much more often."

Often on sale people buy things that they don't really need. But they buy them, thinking that one day they might use them. Although the shopping addiction, or mania, might seem unreal many people buy huge amounts of unnecessary things. It often even goes to the extreme of spending all the family savings and basically ruining the family budget. Shopping addiction has similar symptoms to other addictions:

"You have a strong urge to buy something when, for example, you receive a leaflet with an item on sale. You don't need it, but still want to buy it. Or, you become tense and nervous, sweat, or are absent-minded, when you can't buy what you want."

...or if you gradually neglect other pleasures in your life and prefer only shopping and certainly if you carry on shopping even though it has proven to have bad consequences for you or you have no money then you should start seeking professional help. It's nothing less nothing more than a regular addiction.

"Psychiatric departments also help people with this kind of addiction. I am certain there are many people that have this addiction, who literally ruin their families and don't even know that they are ill. It is not a question of curing this addiction in a few days, but really a long-term process."

Shopping addiction most often strikes during winter, however it is also connected to sales, so make sure to watch out at the end of summer, not be become a shopping addict. And to freely walk the Obchodna-shopping street, or any other mall for that matter, without worrying of becoming addicted here are a few rules to stick to:

"First always decide whether the product is really worth buying, if it had previously cost three times as much."

"Don't allow advertisements to wind you up, or fool you."

"And always think whether you really need the product. And you should be safe."