My name is Victoria and I am a shopaholic. I mean it!

The feeling I will soon describe will be familiar to millions: a surge of excitement as they find that must-have item in the shop, followed by a sickening sense of let-down shortly afterwards.

It may be some relief to discover that scientists not only know why it happens and can now provide some pointers or theraphy to avoiding it.

The feeling is caused by the release of a specific chemical in the brain. A very special one! One ralated to cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine consumption among others. Dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, is released in waves as shoppers first see a product and then consider buying it.But the more recent news is that the anticipation rather than the buying itself produces the discharge of the chemical and drives the process. The effect of the naturally produced chemical lasts only a short time and can leave the shopper feeling let down when brain chemistry returns to normal. Rats release dopamine when they see a new part of the cage to explore, but the level drops quickily once they enter it.

“Dopamine is all about the hunt and the anticipation. It is released as you conjure up in your mind the thought of this purchase and anticipate how it will look and how you will use it.” Gregory Berns,  neuroscientist at Emory University

Neuroco, a London consulting firm, uses portable monitors strapped to shoppers to produce “brain maps”. These studies can be quite beneficial for retailers, who benefit greatly from understanding what keeps costumers entering the shop.

Dopamine is also related to survival, but nowadays it may be more about the urban jungle. If a woman sees a dress that can help her “survive” or increase her social status at some party, she will see it as a “must have”. But if she buys it, the euphoric feeling will soon be gone. On the other hand, a more profound feeling of dissapointment will set into  place if she does not buy it. Both ways, she will be even harder to satisfy the next time as she needs a “biger dose”.  So, what can she do?

First of all, try to first visit new shops after the closing hour or check out the collection on the web page. Entering a store you have seen before will not produce such a strong effect. Secondly, avoid shopping sprees in new areas or cities or simply leave the credit card at home. Going with friends will only make the feeling more intense.  Buying and returning the product is also a very bad idea.

Last, but not least….think of the enviromental impact of such bad and impulsive shopping!

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