Shopping is part of everyday life but it may become problematic when it goes beyond meeting the shelter, nutrition, education, health, and recreational needs of the person and starts to limit the person’s personal and social life and cause the person to be financially and morally negatively affected. In the globalized and hyperconnected world of the twenty-first century, excessive shopping has become a problem for all societies. What distinguishes shopping addiction (SA) phenomena from ordinary consumers, collectors and hoarders is that they focus mainly on the purchasing process and the emotions this process evokes, not specifically on the product purchased. For this reason, they often do not use the products they buy or discard them [1].

SA is not included as a distinct disorder in the current psychiatric diagnostic systems yet. Problematic shopping behavior (PSB) was defined as “oniomania ” by both Bleuler and Kraepelin in the early twentieth century [2]. However, it has been unclear whether this is a problem with impulse control, or a variant of obsessive–compulsive disorder or an addictive disorder. In accordance with that, various different names such as “oniomania,” “compulsive shopping,” “compulsive consumption,” “impulsive buying,” “compulsive buying,” “compulsive spending” and “problematic shopping behavior” have been used to address the same clinical picture. In recent years, growing literature and clinical observations support the definition of PSB as a behavioral addiction like internet addiction, exercise addiction, and pathological gambling [3,4,5,6]. According to Lejoyeux and Weinstein, who define shopping addiction, purchasing behavior comes in an uncontrollable and repetitive form, the person spends most of his time shopping or imagining the shopping act; he always buys more than he had planned and continues his shopping behavior despite the negative consequences of shopping [7].

Griffith’s described components of addiction as salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict and relapse [8]. PSB fits into this model. Therefore, “Problematic Shopping Behavior” will be used throughout the text to refer to any type of PSB. There is a constant preoccupation with shopping in PSB cases. Although they do not always purchase a new product, they devote a significant amount of time scrolling through online shopping sites or reading comments about certain products and they may neglect their work. In the early stages, subjects with PSB feel positive emotions when they shop [9]. Over time, shopping becomes a solution to get away from negative emotions [10]. Despite the feelings of guilt and regret after the shopping act, the person has difficulty controlling the shopping bouts as the problem progresses. As a result of the unstoppable shopping activity, family conflicts and relationship problems with the spouse arise, job performance may decrease, and increasing debts and related legal problems may even come down to illegal acts to overcome financial problems.

Quality of life may decrease and secondary psychiatric problems may occur. People with SA are generally aware of their problems [2]. Most are worried about their debt associated with shopping problems [11]. Nevertheless, they rarely seek help. They prefer to be alone while shopping because the presence of someone who doesn’t share the same positive feelings as themselves can be shame inducing.

Cross-sectional studies indicate that SA(shopping addiction) is chronic, although fluctuations are observed in its severity and intensity [11, 12]. In some cases of PSB, the problem is continuous and does not improve for more than a month, while in the other part, the disorder progresses periodically. Some cases encounter these periods every hour, while others occur once a month.

The negative consequences of PSB (eg, distress, impairment) and the underlying psychological and neuropsychological mechanisms have emerged in several studies [13,14,15].

Measurement of problem shopping

Different scales for assessing problematic shopping behavior have been developed since the late 1980s. Some of these scales approach the problem either from the compulsive buying or impulse-control paradigm perspective [16,17,18] and do not assess components of behavioral addiction[8]. Although Bergen Shopping Scale [3] is among the widely used scales, it was not used in our study because it was developed with the data of the participants in Norway and there is no validity and reliability study for Turkish culture. When the cultural background, country and language of the new target population are different from the culture in which the scale was developed, the scale needs to be culturally adapted [19]. There is only an adaptation of the scale to Compulsive Online Buying Behavior in Turkey. This scale, on the other hand, is not sufficient to evaluate shopping addiction in general terms, to determine the prevalence of shopping addiction in Turkey and to define the nature of purchasing profiles in our study. Therefore, the need to use a new tool has emerged in our study.

Prevalence of problem shopping

The inconsistency with the definition, naming and measurement of the problematic behavior has yielded different results in epidemiologic studies. The rate of the prevalence of SA in epidemiological studies was found to be between 1.1 and 20% [9, 20,21,22,23]. In a meta-analysis of 40 epidemiological studies on the shopping problem, the point prevalence was found to be 5% [24].

In recent years, CBSD has become important to public health. Prevalence estimates of around 5% in populations in different cultures indicate that this is a common condition [20, 21, 25]. Also the shopping process has changed with the advent of the internet. E-retail shopping has increased over the years and constituted 11.9% of all retails worldwide in 2018. In Turkey, where this study was conducted, the rate of online shopping was reported as 29.3% between the ages of 16–74 in 2018 [26]. As the amount of this shopping increases, the discomfort associated with online shopping also increases. Online problematic shopping behavior has also been shown to include known predictors of behavioral addictions in general: low self-esteem, low self-regulation, negative emotional state, and female gender [27]. It is possible that it is easier to lose control during online shopping than in-store shopping compared to offline shopping [28]. In our study, no questioning was made in terms of online and in-store shopping, and problematic shopping behavior was evaluated in general terms.

Correlates of problem shopping

In clinical and field studies, it has been reported that 80–95% of the SA cases are women [20, 25]. It is stated that women, youth, and people with psychological disorders [29] are particularly susceptible to problematic shopping behaviors [30]. However, in some studies there was no effect of gender on SA [23, 31].

SA cases tend to be younger [20, 22, 23, 25, 32]. Lejoyeux et al. [33] found that fewer women (66%) with SA were married than the control group (85%). Most studies have failed to show any effects of sociodemographic variables like education, relationship status, income or employment on SA [20, 34].

SA is rarely seen as an isolated problem. In cases with shopping addiction, first and second axis disorders accompany the picture with a rate of 90% [23]. Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, hoarding disorder, impulse control disorder, gambling addiction, and substance use disorders are the most common psychiatric problems accompanying shopping addiction [35]. In the literature, it has been reported that a mood disorder accompanies SA in 21–100% [23, 36, 37]. In McElroy et al.’s [38] study, patients stated that when they were depressed, only shopping made them feel good. In a study from Brazil, Mattos et al. [39] reported that among the 171 patients with compulsive buying 164 had at least one psychiatric comorbidity, with anxiety and mood disorders being the most frequent. The decline in cognitive functions in depression and the need for rewarding behavior may facilitate shopping behaviour. “Retail therapy” stands out as a popular method for dealing with negative emotions in society.

People who have difficulty in regulating intense emotions whether negative or positive tend to act impulsively which puts them under risk for addictive disorders [40]. Shopping has a mood modifying effect as suggested in the multicomponent model of addiction [8]. It has been reported that people with SA might experience both positive and negative emotions before the purchase [41, 42]. Act of shopping or being occupied with shopping might have a temporary effective regulatory function.

Attachment style and shopping addiction relationships have been studied rarely. Main idea of attachment theory as proposed by Bowlby is that every human being has an innate need for psychological security that is provided by the care and protection of their attachment figure. People seek out proximity to their attachment figures, particularly when they are distressed. If a person is securely attached the attachment figure is perceived as loving, approving and a close person that can be trusted at any time. In contrast, the attachment figure is perceived as cold, distant and unreliable when a person has avoidant attachment. Therefore, they withdraw themselves when they are distressed in order not to be disappointed. Anxious attachment is characterized by a perception of the attachment figure as an inconsistent and confusing person who might be warm, loving and dependable at certain times and cold, distant and undependable at other times. Thus, they seek constant encouragement from their significant others. Attachment insecurity is related to increased psychiatric distress and difficulties in affective regulation [43]. Anxiously attached individuals might use inanimate objects as a means to feel socially connected and secure [44]. This is similar to what Winnicott called a “transitional object” such as a toy or a blanket which the child attaches to during the separation stage from the primary attachment figure. Transitional object attachment helps the child feel safe and secure when the primary caregivers are unavailable [45]. Negative affect states related to insecure attachment might trigger an increased attachment to and the need to possess inanimate objects. Shopping is also at times a social activity for individuals where they interact with sales persons. Therefore, especially those with anxious attachment might be expected to turn to shopping when they feel the need to connect while avoidantly attached individuals might refrain from shopping to avoid any social proximity.

The present study

This survey study was conducted to examine a large-scale representative sample from different parts of Turkey utilizing a new instrument that was aimed to reflect the six components of behavioral addiction criteria to assess shopping addiction. More specifically, it psychometrically defines the employment of item response theory (IRT), a cut-off point for the population of interest, to accurately assess disordered buying prevalence. Furthermore, it employs latent class analysis (LCA) to define the optimum number of disordered shopping profiles, as well as the nature of their differences for that specific population. The study describes the intensity of the associations between shopping addiction and some psychological phenomenologies. Regarding the literature research on the correlates of shopping addiction, in the present study it was hypothesized that psychiatric distress, negative affect, and attachment styles would all be positively associated with shopping addiction.

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