When most of us go shopping, it’s not because we actually need a new shirt or pair of shoes. Here are the three psychological triggers that are behind most trips to the mall. 

  • The first trigger is: Your mood. ONE-THIRD of us hit the mall when we’re feeling depressed. And there’s a good reason why. Experts point out that we get a rush of excitement simply from the act of BUYING things, not from using them. Dr. April Benson is a psychologist who wrote the book “To Buy Or Not To Buy.” She says that shopaholics get a surge of pleasure chemicals in the same areas of the brain as drug addicts do when they take their drug. So if you’re down, skip the shopping trip and substitute something else, like taking a hot bath or reading a good book. Both of those are proven to reduce stress hormones and boost calming brain chemicals.  

  • Another spending-spree trigger, especially for men: Competition. Studies show that men spend almost 60-percent more money when they shop together compared to when they shop alone. That’s because men subconsciously believe that throwing money around proves their “top dog” status. But just because a guy isn’t at the mall, doesn’t mean he isn’t shopping to feed his competitive drive. Guys do a lot of ONLINE shopping, especially on auction sites, like eBay. They feel a rush each time they have the winning bid. Dr. Benson says that rush can become highly addicting for men. 

  • And this last trigger leads to a lot of shopping sprees: Bad math calculations. In other words, our brains get scrambled by phrases like “5 for $30!” or “Buy one, get one half-off." And our willpower goes out the window. That’s because discounts shift our focus from what we’re spending to what we’re saving. And we think we’re getting a great deal, even though we’re spending money on things we might never buy normally.