There's a fine line between having a love of online shopping, and having an addiction to it. And according to psychotherapists, an addiction to buying goods off the internet should be classified as a mental health condition.
The term BSD - which stands for 'buying-shopping disorder' - has long been in existence, but as the digital age facilitates shopping at the drop of a hat (or the tap of a button), experts warn that it is "taking on a new meaning", according to a Mail Online report.
"It really is time to recognise BSD as separate mental health condition and to accumulate further knowledge about BSD on the Internet," Dr Astrid Müller, a psychotherapist at Hannover Medical School in Germany, told the publication. In a small study published in the Comprehensive Psychiatry journal, Müller researched the condition, analysing 122 patients who had sought help for their online shopping addictions. What emerged was a higher-than-usual rate of depression and anxiety among those who were addicted to buying online.
With shops now largely being '24-hour' due to the nature of websites and apps facilitating purchases at any time of day (or night), the experts fear online BSD is becoming increasingly common.
BSD is not currently recognised as a disorder in its own right, but instead as part of a wider category called 'other specified impulse control disorder'. This is known to have serious mental effects, according to the German researchers.
The condition works in a cycle of having extreme cravings to purchase, which feeds off a feeling of satisfaction when money is spent. Health website Very Well Mind describes the characteristics of an addiction to shopping as a "preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items", "spending a great deal of time doing research on coveted items and/or shopping for unneeded items", and "difficulty resisting the purchase of unneeded items".
The risks, as with any addiction, are great; debt, loss of self-control, and de-prioritisation of fundamental things like family and work being just some.
"We hope that our results showing that the prevalence of addictive online shopping among treatment-seeking patients with BSD will encourage future research... and specific treatment concepts," said psychotherapist Dr Müller.