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Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

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    Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

    In trying to keep up with the Jones', many people buy more than they can really afford. For some who purchase many items they neither need or use, however, there is more than merely trying to keep up with the Jones' going on. These people who max out their credit cards on things they really don't need have a compulsive shopping disorder.

    Oniomania ("for sale" or "price" + mania), also referred to as compulsive shopping or binge buying, is the excessive, uncontrollable desire to purchase items. In a society that celebrates spending and credit, this medical condition is usually dismissed or looked upon as a joke rather than a serious problem. Oniomaniacs are often viewed by outsiders as merely being financially irresponsible and therefore left on their own with no support in dealing with their problem.

    Even though it isn't taken seriously by most people, you probably know someone suffering from compulsive shopping. Studies indicate that as many as 1 in 12 people in the US suffer from this disorder with 80% - 90% of those suffering from it being women. The typical compulsive buyer is a woman in her early to mid-30s who has a number of credit cards that carry a heavy balance and whose family earns a low to middle-income.

    The disorder can have devastating effects. As would be expected, it often leads to financial problems, such as overspending on credit cards and a poor credit rating. The disorder doesn't lead exclusively to financial problems; oniomania also creates mental and emotional difficulties. Combined together without an understanding support system, the disorder can linger for years without sufferers getting the medical attention they need.

    The majority of mental health professionals do not consider compulsive shopping an "addiction" due to the fact that there is no physical dependency as you would find with drugs or alcohol. Even so, oniomaniacs do usually display a variety of addictive behaviors. Those that are compulsive shoppers are often former addicts of other things, including drugs and alcohol.

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    Compulsive shopping typically occurs in a continuing viscous cycle. It's usually set off by depression or some other emotional distress such as boredom, disappointment, anger or fear. When these emotions come, they set off an impulse for the oniomaniac to shop which gives a type of euphoria that dilutes the emotional distress they are feeling. When they reach a depressed state, they're extremely susceptible to advertising and will buy anything that they feel will make them more attractive, powerful or secure. Following the purchase, however, there is a letdown usually followed by guilt over the wasted money or increasing debt. This guilt and stress leads to another round of depression, which begins the compulsive shopping cycle all over again.

    There are a number of signs which are indicative of compulsive shopping. These include:

    - Shopping and spending large amounts of money as a result of depression brought on by anger, boredom, disappointment, fear or other emotional distress.

    - Shopping and spending money which causes emotional distress and chaos including arguments with others about their shopping and spending habits.

    - Having shopping and the amount of money spent interfere with work and family relationships.

    - Purchasing excessive amounts of items that never get used -- especially items they already have at home and do not need. For example, they may purchase a large number of pieces of clothing when they already have a closet full of clothes that they have never even worn.

    - Items that have never been used may be thrown away, sometimes still in their original packaging or with the tags still attached.

    - Lying to others about the amount of shopping done and the amount of money spent.

    - Running up large amounts of debt or buying unnecessary items instead of paying bills as well as borrowing or stealing money to shop

    - Thinking excessively about money.

    - Spending a lot of time juggling accounts and bills to be able to continue to shop for more things.

    Even if the symptoms are recognized, treatment for oniomania can be more complex than treating a physical addiction like drugs or alcohol. One of the main problems is that it's impossible to discontinue shopping altogether. In this respect, treatment for compulsive shopping is dealt with in a similar way to that of compulsive overeating.

    As with overeating, the pattern of compulsive shopping is addressed to bring the shopping to a healthy level through counseling and support. While there are a number steps a compulsive shopper can take on their own to help reduce their shopping to normal levels, ultimately professional psychological help is needed to overcome the problem. Proper treatment will help ensure that compulsive shoppers don't stop their compulsive shopping and simple replace it with another compulsive habit. If you believe that you or someone you know may have a compulsive shopping problem, it's important to contact a counselor or mental health professional to seek help.

    Re: Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

    This is a great article. Unfortunately I was addicted in this way for several years and really racked up a lot of debt! I know in my case it was brought on by depression relating to going through problems with our oldest daughter. I wasn't able to handle the stress and pain and also felt resentful because I had never spent much on myself, preferring to spend on my children. At the time I enjoyed it, but when I was so terribly hurt, I began to resent the sacrifice and decided it was "my turn." I would get a high from buying...toward the end of this was over about a 10 year period I'd say...I was going shopping on my lunch break, risking being late going back to work, buying things I already had, didn't need and often didn't even wear. It was only when I decided I wanted to retire that I was able to stop. By this time I no longer needed to buy to feel good about myself and so it was not hard to stop, but it was hard to get all the debts paid off!


      Re: Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

      This is so sad to read about, I hope that modern medical research finds some actual causes & solutions, soon.


        Re: Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

        Yes it is sad. I have a friend who is this way right now. She has a room full of clothes she has bought and never wears. She sells some and gives me some...some of them still have the tags on them! When I mention how much I have each month to spend on clothes...she says, oh, yeah you're on a budget as if it's a dirty word! But in the next breath she is talking about how her money is running out and she may have to get a reverse mortgage in order to live! I tell her that having a budget makes me feel empowered whereas I used to feel out of control, and that soon all my debt will paid off and I'll have more momey, but she just smiles and shakes her head.


          Re: Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

          A September article on the LiveScience website reports men are as addicted to compulsive shopping as women, although both sexes believe the contrary.

          If you're interested check this link.


            Re: Compulsive Shopping Disorder - Oniomania

            Hello, My name is Andre McLachlan, from New Zealand. I am undertaking a Masters level research project at Waikato University involving Compulsive Shopping. I am seeking individuals who consider themselves to be compulsive shoppers to complete 4 self-report questionaires (word documents via email). This research hopes to explore some of the key psychological elements involved in maintaining compulsive shopping. Any interested individuals please email me at


              Hi. I'm new here and I have a problem with impulsive shopping. It happens when there is cash in my hands and I get an urge to just go shopping for unnecessary items like games and junk food. I am on Abilify to control the impulses I get and it helps with them except the shopping one. I have been this way for a long time. When I was 16 I spent over $1000.00 that I made working in six months on Barbie items. This isn't normal and I would like to get some help. I'd enjoy hearing what others who have been in my shoes have done and their advice to help me.


                his is so sad to read about, I hope that modern medical research finds some actual causes & solutions, soon.


                  A September article on the LiveScience website reports men are as addicted to compulsive shopping as women, although both sexes believe the contrary.


                    I feel sad after reading this. I never thought that it can really be a disorder. I hope people who are into it can recover soon.


                      You bring up some good points here. I especially took note of the comments about how society sees some addictions as not serious enough to warrant discussion or something people joke about. I think we all need to be able to seriously identify these problems so they can be seriously dealt with.

                      I know of people who like to shop like there's no tomorrow. It's so easy to lay judgement on these people. If it's a spouse then it's so easy to feel like they are threatening my way of living because they are spend most of the money. But then if I really cared about this person I would care to identify real problems and seek real solutions as opposed to just being counter productively judgement and angry all the time.

                      This being said it's also important for us to identify our own addictions and take ourselves seriously. Rather than just make out that they're minor problems that everyone has and not worth dealing with. If it's detrimental then it should be dealt with.

                      Kevin Lars
                      stressnut com


                        I had to take a drug for anti-seizures, I was warned side effects included gambling and compulsive shopping. I thought, yeah, right, neither of those two things were ever a problem of mine. I derive no joy from either.

                        well, well, well, was I wrong. I started buying cheap Vera Bradley purses on eBay and got addicted, i loved the thrill of winning. Here's the kicker, I have no idea what got me onto Vera Bradley, I always hated Vera Bradley except when carried by teens and elderly women. Really disliked them. I don't know if I saw someone with one and liked it or I started searching inexpensive purses on eBay, I have no memory of why on earth I started buying Vera Bradley. Bizarre.

                        I did not make any connection to that med until the mailman said, "what is in all these boxes?" That kind of snapped me out of it, told the doc, came off the drug and never bought anything VB or anything on eBay since.

                        I'll never get that money back, the prints are out of date. I sold some at a consignment shop, garage sales and gave them to friends who like them. My teen daughter was in her glory. But I still have a glut of ones I don't actively hate, lol, that I rotate through my purse carrying.

                        the whole thing was eye opening because if a fairly benign neuro drug can do that, a drug that changes the way your brain works, then I can totally understand gamblers and compulsive shoppers now. They probably have brain chemistry similar to what this drug produces. Making them very real addictions. I used to laugh at shopping addicts, not anymore.