Compulsive Coping

Compulsive Coping

By: Harrison Nelson

March 1st, 2022

This article is from our Winter 2022 Magazine Issue. Read the full magazine here.

In the year 2020, people learned a lot about themselves. As the global pandemic continues, it is important for people to look at their actions. With many fears and losses during these times, 2020 brought with it effects to people’s mental health and therefore, their actions. These stressors can affect some people’s actions differently. Some may have picked up new hobbies, or connected with people that they haven’t talked to in a while. Unfortunately, many people have had negative effects on their actions in response to COVID-19.

One of the more interesting habits adopted by people looking to cope with the pandemic is online shopping. What makes shopping interesting is the multiple ways in which it has become so popular during this time. The obvious explanation is that people have been locked inside for so long on their phones and computers, but there are more pressing causes of the shopping boom. One of the more concerning reasons is addiction.

The increase and popularity of online shopping has uncovered an addiction in many people. Compulsive shopping has existed for a long time and is studied by doctors to get a better understanding of this condition. In an article from Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, Dr. Kristen Fuller, M.D. said, “Compulsive buying, ‘retail therapy,’ or shopping out of boredom can lead to a pile of unnecessary belongings, guilt, and financial hardships.” She goes on to say that compulsive shopping is uncontrollable and often coincides with other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. 

With the restrictions placed on businesses due to COVID, many people turned to online shopping out of necessity. Fortunately for online retailers, they were at the right place at the right time. Findings from Selligent Marketing Cloud show that “the percentage of consumers who shop online weekly went up from 28% before the pandemic to 36%.” While this makes sense with the previously mentioned restrictions, what is not mentioned in these reports is the negative mental effects online shopping has on people.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, anxiety and depression increased during the pandemic. It is important to understand that these conditions can manifest themselves in many ways, including shopping, but shopping in itself is not the problem. Ginni Correa, in an article for the Addition Center, reports on the many ways one  can identify compulsive shopping or “buying-shopping disorder.” The list contains such examples as hiding purchases from people, buying things that one did not plan on and purchasing items when one cannot afford them. This compulsion to shop can have many negative effects on one’s well being and finances.

These compulsive shopping habits can be hard to talk about with others, but it is important to know that there are people willing to help. With COVID slowing, it is important to look at the actions taken during quarantine to see if anxiety and depression affected shopping habits and how to prevent compulsive shopping from happening in the future.

Harrison Nelson is a fourth year undergraduate student with a major in professional and public writing and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation. He has been playing guitar for twelve years and enjoys classic cars.