The fear of missing out on a purchase can switch us into a “competitive mode” which makes it difficult to control the impulse to buy something that could be bought by someone else first,she says. In the past, this “physiological arousal was designed to protect us from bears, not other shoppers,” she says. “The reason [our response] is so powerful, is because people don’t think about it,” says Yarrow.
Conversely, while some of us feel excited and competitive, others experience a slower heart rate and use shopping to relax and escape from daily problems, says Wurtzel. “Some people report exhilaration and less anxiety and more of a calming of their nerves,” she says.
No safety in numbers
Think you can go to the mall with your friends and they’ll act as a buffer for your addiction? Not exactly — having friends in tow actually entices you to shop.
Bringing friends, encountering other shoppers at the store or reading online reviews can increase feelings of connectedness, which makes it easier to go through with a purchase even if we do feel a flicker of hesitation.
And you won’t even realise it. Most of the time, these changes are only visible through brainwaves or larger pupils, rather than a quickening heartbeat or tense muscles, Oh says.