This is a time of year that it is traditional for people to spend more money than usual. It is nice to buy gifts for loved ones – even if it does mean spending a lot of money. Many individuals find themselves struggling with debt come January due to overindulgence at Christmas. In most cases, this will just be a temporary dip in finances, but it can also be a sign that many have developed a shopping addiction. If this is the case, the person’s finances and life may continue to deteriorate until they decide to get help.
The term ‘shopping addiction‘ is often used inappropriately just to refer to people who enjoy shopping. When this term is used more objectively, it refers to a real condition that is similar to other types of addiction like gambling or even alcoholism. This type of compulsive shopping falls under the category of non-chemical addiction. It can appear less serious than something like heroin addiction, but it can actually lead to a great deal of suffering for many ‘sufferers’.
Shopping addiction is also referred to as oniomania. It is associated with poor impulse control and obsessive-compulsive disorder; it can even be a symptom of bipolar disorder. The person engaged in this behaviour goes shopping in an attempt to ease a sense of great inner discomfort; it could also be considered a form of self-medication.
Unlike addiction such as alcoholism, the person does not become physically addicted to shopping; it is more a psychological addiction. It is not so much a case that the person shops a certain amount, but more to do with the fact that they continue with the behaviour despite it obviously causing them great harm. The symptoms of shopping addiction can include:
- making the person feel guilty or ashamed afterwards
- getting in the way of taking care of family, social, or work obligations
- becoming defensive if others question their behaviour
- falling into debt as a result of excessive shopping
- buying things they do not need
- giving away a lot of the things they are buying; the behaviour can be more about the act of buying rather than possession
- spending money that they just can’t afford
- trying hard to justify their behaviour.
Compulsive shopping can have a devastating impact on a person’s life; it can also have a negative impact on the lives of dependants and other loved ones. Some of the dangers of this behaviour can include:
- giving a temporary feeling of relief but ultimately creating more suffering for the individual
- ending up with huge debts that cannot be paid; this can also have a negative impact on families
- leading to depression
- the downward spiral associated with this type of addiction can make individuals suicidal.
It is important to be able to distinguish between spending too much on a whim and being addicted to shopping. Upon developing oniomania, many will need help in order to be able to break free of the addictive behaviour. It is important to discover the driving force behind this behaviour, otherwise the person could just turn to new addictions. In many cases, the best option may be for the individual to enter some type of inpatient rehabilitation programme.