Yale Study Suggests a Link between Compulsive Gambling and Shopping Addiction
Shopping addiction has been linked to problem gambling, according to researchers at the Yale School of Medicine. The link was discovered in a study which surveyed 2,100 Connecticut high school students.
The Yale study attempted to find links between addiction behaviors like pathological gambling and shopping addiction. Both behaviors have been linked previously to unhealthy habits like alcohol abuse and physical altercations, but had never been linked to one another.
Escaping to the Casino and the Mall
One factor researchers understand about compulsive behavior is the escapist nature to the activity. If a person is having trouble coping with the psychology of the realities of everyday life, that person might engage in compulsive behavior of an escapist nature. The addiction could take many forms, including shopping, gambling, alcohol use, drug abuse, the use of pornography, and promiscuity.
The Yale researchers focused on behavioral factors, not the psychology behind those behaviors. Shopping addiction and problem gambling have common behavioral factors. By learning about commonalities in behavior patterns, behavioral researchers and clinicians in the field may be better able to design treatments and coping mechanisms.
Shopping Addiction and Anxiety
According to Sarah Yip, a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry and the lead study author, shopping addiction does not have a history of effective treatments like problem gambling. By studying how therapists treat compulsive gambling, a doctor might be able to treat shopping addictions better.
Researchers believe that gambling addiction affects about 1% of the adult population. A 2006 study American Journal of Psychiatry estimated that the number of American shopping addicts is approximately six times greater. According to the 2006 Journal study, about 5.8% of the adult population suffers from compulsive shopping.
Not Enough Research on Problem Shopping
While problem gambling (rightly) receives a great deal of coverage in the media and in the research community, problem shopping does not. Given the scope of the behavior, more research is needed.
Yip told the Yale Daily News, “The more we know, the better. At the moment, there are more well-validated treatments that exist for things like gambling than things like shopping. Understanding shared features helps us understand how to improve treatment.”
Questions on shopping addiction focused on the same type of questions traditionally asked of compulsive gamblers. These include whether or not addicts experienced an irrepressible urge to buy things, whether they missed time at work or school to shop, or whether they used shopping to alleviate anxiety.
The Link Between Gambling and Shopping
The Yale study suggested that those teens identified to be at risk of problem gambling also display were more likely to report stresses or anxieties that is relieved by shopping. Also, those who were identified as “at risk” for compulsive shopping were more likely to report concern over a family member’s gambling behavior.
Ms. Yip suggested that more research is needed in the area to reach determinations, but the research hinted at a few possible factors. Compulsive shopping and gambling appears to be transmitted within a family. This could be explained by a social factor, a result of a life spent in a household where addiction exists and affects other members of the family. The societal factors could be related to general tension and stress in a family unit, and the reliance on unhealthy coping mechanism.
Nature Versus Nurture
The link could also be explained by a biological factors, too, say Yip. certain families might have genetic reasons they are more prone to compulsive behavior. It has been shown that families and even ethnic groups might be more prone to physical addictions, due to genetic factors. The same could be true of addictions of a more psychological nature.
First Study of Its Kind
John Grant, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, notes the unique nature of the research. Grant, who was not involved in the study, said this was the first time a study focused on the addictive shopping and gambling behaviors of teenagers. He says this is important, because the teenage years is when these behaviors first begin to emerge.
John Grant said, “This is a growing area of interest because this seems to be the age group where these behavioral addictions start rearing their heads. [It] becomes important for early education, screening, and prevention efforts. Parents can get complacent about this age group, saying, ‘Thank goodness my child doesn’t use drugs!’ But that doesn’t mean the adolescent doesn’t have problems with other behaviors.“
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