Is Your Stuff Giving You Anxiety?


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Americans are all about immediate gratification, and our consumer-driven culture allows us access to that gratification every single day. We go shopping in hopes that it feels good or causes pleasure, and if it does, then we do it again, and again, and again. Our obsession with shopping and acquiring material goods is leaving many penniless and riddled with anxiety.

Consider this: Does it give you a slight panic when you spill food or wine on your most expensive shirt? Are you so attached to certain items that you own that you actually store them away instead of using them for fear of ruining the item that you paid an exorbitant amount of money for?  There is enough in this world to be causing us anxiety- the melting polar ice caps, the devastating stories on the news, and bad pop music. Why let inanimate objects cause you mental pain and suffering?

Advertisements and marketing schemes try to lead us to believe that the more things that we have, the happier we will be. This leads down a path of working a job that we don’t enjoy in order to buy more things that we don’t truly need and can’t afford. Many studies have shown that those that are more materialistic than others have a lower value of self-worth, suffer from depression and anxiety, are overall less satisfied with life, and have high amount of debt with no savings.

Sometimes our outside influences outweigh our better judgement. We try to keep up with the Joneses, submit to bullying or feel peer pressure to buy the newest products. A study called the “Geography of Consumption” refers to how more prestigious neighborhoods that contain more materialistic people has an overall lower quality of life. The study also found that those that lived in these neighborhoods had large amounts of debt from buying things to impress their neighbors. Don’t feel guilty if you are realizing that you have done this yourself. This approval-seeking behavior is ingrained in us as human beings.

So, why do we continue to shop if we know that it has the potential to make us feel so lousy and to ruin our credit? Why do smokers continue to smoke when they know it is bad for their health? It is because in the moment, it feels good. For some it is a form of addiction that can be helped with seeing an addiction counselor. For others, it is a way to cope with anxiety, and the nervous energy could potentially be transferred elsewhere. For some people, it fills a void that they may not even be conscious is there, but they continue to fill it with stuff.

“As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier, we simply raise our reference point,” explained co-author James Roberts, of Baylor University Hankamer School of Business. “That new 2500-square foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It’s called the ‘Treadmill of Consumption.’ We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

If you are prone to anxiety, it is best to be hyper-aware of the potential that a shopping addiction could possibly replace healthy habits that you currently have. If your shopping habits have already caused you harm, put a stop to it now and make a plan to repair your credit. The instant gratification and ease of anxiety may feel good in the moment but may have long-lasting financial repercussions. Find outlets for your anxiety that can benefit, rather than hurt, you in the long run by remembering that less is more.

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