Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Compulsive Shopping

Compulsive Shopping

Some people engage in compulsive buying or spending on occasion. It’s most common during the winter holiday months, as a remedy for mild depression or boredom. While most people keep this under control, a few develop a more serious problem. They buy far more than they need and most of it they will never use. It sometimes results in thousands of dollars of debt. This is called oniomania or compulsive shopping.

In a society that emphasizes materialism, compulsive shopping is frequently overlooked as a problem, often even treated as a joke. Oniomaniacs are sometimes dismissed as being financially irresponsible. It is far more complicated than that. Compulsive shopping can be devastating not only financially, but also mentally and emotionally.

Most mental health professionals do not consider compulsive shopping an addiction because there is no physical dependency as with drugs or alcohol, but Oniomaniacs do display addictive behavior. High percentages are addicts or former addicts of other things, including drugs and alcohol. Oniomania can affect either sex but the vast majority of compulsive shoppers are adult females. There have been few studies done on compulsive shopping, but those have been done indicate that as much as 10% of the adult population display tendencies towards compulsive shopping.

Oniomania typically occurs in cycles. Depression, boredom or emotional distress may set off an impulse to shop. Shopping gives oniomaniacs a sort of euphoria or “high”. They are very susceptible to advertising and will buy things to make them feel more powerful, attractive, or secure. There is usually a letdown afterwards, followed by guilt over the wasted money or debt. This leads to depression, which can set off another episode of compulsive buying.

Signs of compulsive shopping

A tendency to shop and spend large amounts of money during times of depression or emotional distress.

Buying excessive amounts of items that never get used, especially if they already possess these items at home. Compulsive shoppers may buy large amounts of clothing for example, when they have an excess of clothes at home that have never even been worn.

Unused items are frequently disposed of, sometimes even in the original packaging or with the tags still attached.

Lying about shopping or the amount of money spent

Running up large amounts of debt or buying unnecessary items instead of paying bills.

Borrowing or stealing money to shop

Shopping or money spent interferes with work or relationships


Treatment of compulsive shopping may be more complicated than treating a physical addiction, like drug or alcohol abuse, because shopping is not something that can be avoided altogether. Treatment of compulsive shopping is similar to that of compulsive overeating in that that pattern of compulsive behavior must be addressed in order to get the shopping to a normal, healthy level. There are some things the compulsive shopper can do to help get their shopping down to a normal level. This may include things like avoiding temptation, making funds difficult to access or distracting themselves with another activity when there is an impulse to shop. While these methods can greatly contribute to recovery, professional help is still essential. It’s very important that the psychological problems are identified and treated. Without proper treatment, compulsive shoppers may stop shopping only to engage in other compulsive or addictive behaviors in its place. If you think you or someone you know may have a compulsive shopping problem, contact a counselor or mental health professional in your area.