Rebecca is a young journalist in New York City who cannot say no to designer clothes and accessories. She is filled with excitement as she goes about her shopping trips, despite the large debt she accumulates and the disappointment shown by her best friend and boyfriend. But she loves the rush and has a hard time putting away her credit card, even when it is rejected.
Although Rebecca is only a fictional character in the 2009 romantic comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic, the film portrays the very serious subject of shopping addiction.
“Shopping addiction is like any other addiction, including drugs, alcohol, gambling and sexual intercourse addictions,” says Dr Samuel Keo, a clinical psychologist at Khmer Expert on Mental Health Assessment and Treatment in Long Beach, California, who added that many factors can contribute to shopping addiction.
Ol Sreymom, 23, who is a student at the National Institute of Business, admits that “I like shopping, and you can say that I am a kind of a shopaholic as I shop two to three times per month. At least one time, I have spent $20 to 30.”
Although Sreymom admits that she wastes time and money on her addiction, she cannot bring herself to stop.
Some students will even take the money their parents give them for food and education and use it to shop for needless items.
“Some of my classmates try not to go to school because of shopping, and keep the money and spend the time shopping,” says Chariya, a 15-year-old student at Chea Sim Sonthormok High School, who admitted that she sometimes skips breakfast to pay for her shopping.
When a person realises they are a shopaholic and understand that bad things are happening, how can they continue to shop?
Keo says that shopping addiction, like other dependencies, begins as a behaviour. When that behaviour continues long enough, it will become an automated habit. Once a habit, it becomes very difficult to control, causing shopping addicts to go shopping even when they do not want to buy anything. Keo also said that it is possible that brain chemistry changes when someone becomes a shopaholic, making it very hard to stop.
In addition to wasting time and money, shopping addiction can also have disastrous effects on families.
“Finance is one of the major factors to hold the family together. The family would get into argument, fight, break up, or divorce. This will lead to depression. Unfortunately, in Asian society, it could lead to suicidal.”
Women, according to Keo, are more likely than men to be affected by shopping addiction.
“It is fair to say that women have been trained by nature. When they are not aware of these trained behaviours, they can become addicted,” said Keo.
Shopping is not always bad, however. Young people enjoy shopping whenever they are free from study or work because it is fun and makes them feel relaxed. If done properly, shoppers do not need to waste money on things they do not need.
Chan Punler, who is a student, says that shopping is a good way to socialise.
“I like shopping because I love hang out with friends and try on fashionable clothing.
“Sometimes, I have no plan to buy anything, but I still want to go,” says Punler, who added that he only spends money on things that are useful.
Mao Chan SamAth, 24, who works at AAP International Cambodia, says she enjoys shopping but is careful not to waste money.
“I go shopping when I am free from work because I can release my stress and buy what I want,” saidAth, who adds that she always makes sure to plan what she is buying ahead of time.
“I think shopping is good for me.”