November 13, 2011

Oniomania: When Shopping Becomes Unhealthy

It is hard to change behaviour if it is not seen as a problem.
Do you like shopping? Do you really like shopping, really need shopping? Are you suffering from Oniomania? Are we all, to a certain extent?

Definition

Oniomania (from Greek ὤνιος onios "for sale" and μανία mania "insanity") is the technical term for the compulsive desire to shop, more commonly referred to as compulsive shopping, shopping addiction, shopaholism, compulsive buying or CB. The condition has been recognized for over 100 years.

The Condition

Although not taken very seriously by an increasingly shopping-focused world, CB is a psychiatric disorder with serious repercussions for sufferers, and those around them.

Those diagnosed with this disorder - anywhere from 10-30% of Americans - represent the far end of the spectrum. But it would seem by the global popularity of shopping that we are all susceptible to this condition to some degree. Is this what evolution has brought us to - turning the process of acquisition into an obsessive mental illness? If so, what might trigger this response?

Causes of Oniomania

Could it be the multi-billion dollar marketing and advertising industries? As a small, but growing, group of humanity acquires more wealth they also increase overall consumption. It happened in North America over the past several decades of growing wealth, and it is happening now in places like Brazil, India, and China.

Trust in me...
Marketers salivate at the exploding growth, fertile ground for opportunities in encouraging compulsive purchasing. "Let us help you spend your money", they whisper, like Kaa the Python in The Jungle Book trying to hypnotise the Bandar-log. "Trust in me, trust in me, look into my eyes..."

The hypnosis techniques that the money charmers use are glossy catalogues, television shopping channels, cybershopping, and glittery malls that smell like new stuff. The snakes of commerce are good at creating 'needs', and convincing you to meet them by trading your money for their attractive, yet worthless products and services.

Experts believe that compulsive shoppers engage in their behaviour because of a need to feel special and combat loneliness. CS think that shopping will make things better, but it is an expensive therapy that is proven ineffective.

Compulsive shopping only feels good until the initial rush wears off. It may last until you reach the car and load it up with your recent amazing purchases. Or until you get home to your partner. Or until you realize you spent the rent money. Then the guilt kicks in, and the cycle repeats.

This is a global problem now as more and more people spend money acquiring stuff as they convert themselves from citizens to unhealthy consumers (just like we did in the 1950s).

In a world that worships at the altar of shopping, getting away from it can be a challenge for even the most committed anti-consumer. It is even more difficult for  Oniomaniacs as they represent the elite athletes in the game of desire and consumption. We tend to honour them and their patriotism. What is the problem? Why change?

People chuckle at T-shirts that shamelessly announce, "Shopaholic", or, "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping", but this is seriously harmful behaviour for many, and it is certainly bad for the planet.

Treatment

So how to become less shopping oriented, regardless of where we fall on the Oniomania spectrum? As with many mental illnesses, treatment is difficult, comparable to the intransigence of hoarding behaviour.

Doctors would most likely prescribe therapy and/or pharmaceutical concoctions, but the most effective method is having a strong personal desire to make positive changes for the yourself and the planet.

First is recognizing there is a problem - we have to link our desire to shop and consume with the ongoing destruction of the natural world, not to mention our own happiness. Then we need a plan to reduce desire, and consumption through self-control.

Try starting with 24 hours of not buying anything, then progress to a couple of days. Once you get better at it, you may find you can go a whole week of not buying anything. That might feel so good that eventually most days are shopping-free.

You are liberating yourself from that shopping monkey riding on your back, and realizing the benefits.

Benefits of Kicking The Shopping Habit
  1. Spending less, saving more. Getting out of debt = freedom!
  2. With a reduced budget and no debt, you will be able to work less if you choose.
  3. You could get a lower paying job with NO responsibilities (as in American Beauty)
  4. There will be fewer things to store and maintain in your house.
  5. It feels good to live unencumbered by a constant desire for things.
  6. You will have more money for the things you really need, like food and shelter.
  7. By not shopping as much you are withholding your money from the 1%.
  8. All the time you would have been shopping can be spent doing more productive things like, writing a book, volunteering at your local school, helping a neighbour, learning to play an instrument, hanging with your partner and/or kids...
  9. With less stuff you could move to a smaller home.
  10. Your new extra time could be used to start a blog - spread the word about the joys of kicking the shopping habit.

25 comments:

  1. I was a compulsive shopper in my 20's and early 30's. I believe there were several reasons. I was depressed and lonely. I had no one to do things with after work and weekends, so every weekend I would go shopping. Secondly, I had learned from experience that the only thing that mattered to men was how I looked, so I was the best dressed person in my office. I was not good looking, but I had a nice figure and wore nice clothes. Finally, since I was single and couldn't afford a nice house, I figured, screw it, I will spend my money on clothes and accessories since I can't get what I want anyway. What stopped me? At midlife I had all the clothes I needed and I gained weight...it was no fun buying large clothes. I was also out of room to store things. They had gotten to be a burden.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anon,

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. As you found out, compulsive shopping is not patriotic, nor is it funny.

    There are so many damaging messages that we are exposed to that tell us to do things that feel wrong. It is hard to quiet those voices in our heads.

    However, it sounds like you have organized your own recovery, and regained your health. That is not easy - congratulations.

    Thanks again for sharing your insights on this serious issue.

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is such a great post! I was a compulsive shopper when I first moved out on my own and it has taken forever to cut away at my credit card debt. The main reason reason I shopped was because I was feeling lonely, which this article mentions as one of the main causes. I finally decided to get my life on track and found a lot of helpful ways of controlling my spending at http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-cs. This was helpful for me so I hope that it is helpful for others looking to get their spending under control.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you successfully recovered from your compulsive shopping - congratulations on your efforts.

      Thank you for sharing the link.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for posting this piece, i have come across this in total desperation and trying to find a way to help treat my addiction to buying. I have developed Oniomania over the past 6 years and i being a fairly rational person i have traced back my life and know what has triggered it off, but all my rationality and efforts go out of the window when i get this uncontrollable urge to buy!. Growing up in relative poverty, within a big family we seldom had any toys or luxuries. The deprivation in my early life led me to work hard and get a career which would help me buy the things i always craved for and subsequently i would feel happy. I did work hard, saved and invested in my education and career to get myself out of poverty. But the long hours at work and the impact it had on my personal life led me to lose friendships and become isolated. Initially i was on a high thimking i didnt need friends and all i needed to feel good was shop and have all my gadgets to entertain me. However being human i ultimately started to feel lonely and isolated and being focused on my career led me well into my thirties and i realised i did not have a husband or boyfriend or any children and neither a house of my own. I focused so much on looking good,wearing designer clothes and bags and driving an expensive car i actually made myself unattainable and quite out of reach for the men who showed interest in me. One day when i was diagnosed an illness (i choose not to mention it as it upsets me) my world turned upside down and i realised how alone i was and how selfish i had become. I developed depression and anxiety and for a while i did get quite reflective and was keen to make changes to my life, but because i was so low at this point i started to buy as it made me feel good albeit for a short lived time, overtime this became the pattern of my behaviour and eventually this led to me spiralling into a huge debt. Iam currently trying to pay off this debt but i am still buying several days in the week, i have reduced the daily buying however. I am conscious that i hide my purchased items from friends and family as i feel ashamed and i know what i do is not good. I know all the facts and advise to overcome the addition but it is sooo hard to implement and i know that my efforts will be short lived as i have a hole in my heart and nothing seems to fix it. Please let me know if you feel like this and how to fix this feeling....

    Regards
    A fellow Oniomaniac

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my experience the empty place is filled when we work toward achieving peace with ourselves. When we accept ourselves for who we are, we realize that all the external stuff is unnecessary.

      Engaging in a project in which we are helping others, allows us to find peace and contentment.

      When we are in the service of others, we understand that it is all about people, not about stuff.

      It sounds like you are on the road to recovery, and are developing the insight required for further change. Good luck.

      Delete
    2. Dear Anon,

      I hope you are extremely well.

      We are making a UK documentary for Channel 4 about Impulse Control Disorders, including compulsive shopping.

      Having read your post of last year about your wife, we wondered how things have changed/developed for you.

      We are looking to speak with individuals who have their own experiences of compulsive spending, and how this has affected their lives.

      Working with the country's top specialists, the programme looks at potential treatments for these impulses as well as highlighting these issues to the audience. There are many individuals who suffer with similar problems however are too afraid to seek help or do not know where to go.

      I would love to speak with you further about our programme.

      Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our lead researcher, Nina on 0207 266 4646 or nina@cbfilms.tv

      All the best,

      CB Films


      Nina Kästner
      Researcher
      CB Films

      Delete
  5. Wow, thanks for posting your blog. I am trying to seek treatment for my compulsive shopping habits. It has been a difficult journey since I live in a small town and the therapists primary deal with alcohol and drug addictions. I tried talking to my friends and family, but no one sees my shopping as a cause for concern. Lately my habbits have been escalating, and I had called in sick to work for a week straight so I could go shopping. I find it hard to leave a store without making a purchase, I convience myself I need that item. Once I purchase something, the rush is gone, and the item feels worthless. It's hard to find help/or good therapists who know how to treat this. I found it helpful reading other people's comments, and just knowing you are not alone in this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that your experience is more common than official estimates. Although most people don't have Oniomania, chances are they have made more than one purchase that they later regretted.

      When this happens frequently, intervention may be required. There is no standard approach to the treatment of compulsive buying disorder. The type of treatment used depends on the orientation of the clinician.

      Compulsive buying is treated as an addiction by some professionals. They may base their recommendations on treatment models originally developed for substance use disorders.

      Perhaps the addictions therapists in your town could develop a plan for your treatment. It might be helpful to convince some friends and family that your compulsive shopping IS a problem if you have identified it as such.

      Good luck. You can do this thing. Let us know how it goes.

      Delete
    2. Dear Anon,

      I hope you are extremely well.

      We are making a UK documentary for Channel 4 about Impulse Control Disorders, including compulsive shopping.

      Having read your post of last year about your wife, we wondered how things have changed/developed for you.

      We are looking to speak with individuals who have their own experiences of compulsive spending, and how this has affected their lives.

      Working with the country's top specialists, the programme looks at potential treatments for these impulses as well as highlighting these issues to the audience. There are many individuals who suffer with similar problems however are too afraid to seek help or do not know where to go.

      I would love to speak with you further about our programme.

      Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our lead researcher, Nina on 0207 266 4646 or nina@cbfilms.tv

      All the best,

      CB Films


      Nina Kästner
      Researcher
      CB Films

      Delete
  6. mine has defo been triggered from depression. In 2010 my parents had a messy seperation and my mum moved out, never had a close relationship with my dad so that was stuff, my cat also went missing in this time (and tbh, i was closer to the cat than i was to my dad), my bf also moved away to go to uni so yes lonliness for me triggered it, not to mention then getting a job in topshop and being surrounded by gorgeous clothes and always the pressures of looking presentable. Ive realised the only times i haven't felt the 'urge' as much to buy things was when my mind was focused on an operation that was coming up, and at the moment because im looking for a different job and focused on that.. Having a hobby does, help, its just finding the time to do something and meeting up with friends also helps me... evening spent with a mate, is one day less on the laptop online shopping ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with compulsive shopping. In a culture that thinks it is impossible to shop too much, it is important to hear stories such as yours. There are serious consequences to our over-shopping.

      It is also good to hear the coping strategies that are working for you, and may work for others.

      Delete
    2. Dear Anon,

      I hope you are extremely well.

      We are making a UK documentary for Channel 4 about Impulse Control Disorders, including compulsive shopping.

      Having read your post of last year about your wife, we wondered how things have changed/developed for you.

      We are looking to speak with individuals who have their own experiences of compulsive spending, and how this has affected their lives.

      Working with the country's top specialists, the programme looks at potential treatments for these impulses as well as highlighting these issues to the audience. There are many individuals who suffer with similar problems however are too afraid to seek help or do not know where to go.

      I would love to speak with you further about our programme.

      Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our lead researcher, Nina on 0207 266 4646 or nina@cbfilms.tv

      All the best,

      CB Films


      Nina Kästner
      Researcher
      CB Films

      Delete
  7. Very helpful blog - thank you. From time to time, I tend to overspend, experiencing the high then the low when realising what I have spent. Most of the stuff is given to charity, then I begin again. Luckily my card is such that if I reach a certain amount, the transaction is denied. Also it is a Debit as opposed to a Credit card where my credit limit was regularly increased, which made me switch. At least now I know my limit and try to keep within it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,

      Congratulations for getting things under control. Thanks for sharing some of your strategies.

      Delete
  8. Hi everyone. This is a really interesting post, and has obviously struck a chord with many readers. I'm actually making a mini documentary about shopping addiction to raise awareness about it, and am looking for anyone that has this condition and is willing to do an interview.

    Me and the crew members are media studies students at Brighton, UK. We're willing to travel to London or anywhere in Sussex, or alternatively we could do a skype interview if you live elsewhere, or in another country.

    We feel that shopping addiction (oniomania) is misunderstood and often trivialised within pop culture and the media, when actually it is a very serious condition with the potential to ruin lives. We want to raise awareness about the condition.

    Whatever stage you're at (struggling, mid-recovery etc) we would love to hear from you. If you're interested or would like more information, please get in touch by sending an email to shoppingaddictiondoc@gmail.com . If you're willing to be interviewed but would like your identity to be concealed, that is apsolutely fine.

    Thank you for your time, Tegan x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tegan,

      Your project sounds very interesting, and I hope your request finds some participants here. I am also going to do a post on your project to give you more of an opportunity to find potential people that can help you out.

      Good luck with your project. We would love to see the results of your work.

      Delete
    2. I just read your post about our project - thank you so much for your help! And sure we will send you a link to the finished video when it'd done. All the best!

      Delete
  9. AnonymousJuly 02, 2014

    I'm a woman in my 30s. I have it too and I think it is because I was bullied as a child and have always felt like a second class human being.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,

      You are not alone. Many of us have experienced bullying at school, both by teachers and other students. It is unfortunately a common occurrence, although awareness of the problem is beginning to spread.

      If anyone is in the role as a second class citizen in these situations it would be the bully. I am sure that is how they feel and bullying is how they deal with their situation. Compassion is required in these delicate incidences.

      The good news is that we can overcome, both bullies and the bullied. Everyone has value and deserves appreciation for their own unique gifts. Everyone. When we all feel loved, the violence and pain will stop.

      I believe that using love and compassion toward ending bullying would lower the incidence of bullies, the bullied, as well as compulsive shopping. I hope you are well - you deserve to be healthy and happy.

      Delete
  10. The for this helpful post

    ReplyDelete
  11. AnonymousJune 23, 2016

    After meeting with my therapist today, and after a long stint "on the wagon" then going to an event and falling off the wagon and blowing the whole change I made for myself, we have decided I am definitely a shopaholic with Oniomania as you have described in your blog. My addiction has been there all my life indulged by wasteful spending binges with my mother. Particularly after she borrowed a lot of money from her father. This has left her penniless, save her Social Security, living with my family having wasted the money from her house, her retirement, and every other scent she had. I just found out recently, after he passed, that in his 75 years including his time with my mom, that he had declared bankruptcy 6 times! We have declared bankruptcy twice. The first because me husband lost his job, and we could not afford all the credit we had racked up. The second as a direct result of my irresponsible behavior in a business, which we lost, and my spending. We are now going to pay on it for 5 years! We have not even been confirmed by the court and I am terrified it won't get confirmed and we will be out on the street thanks to me (and my Mom and the way in which I was raised) I am meeting with my husband shortly to fess up to everything, hand over my pad, laptop, checkbook and cards in order to do whatever I can to nip this in the bud. He has threatened to leave me if I don't get this under control. Of course, to make it all worse he is a CFO and money is his life and has a great sense of security for him. While I have gotten a short term rush put of shopping and binge eating, I am not willing to allow it to ruin my life anymore. Hopefully it has not ruined my marriage and between my therapist, hopefully my husband, and me we can work this out together. Thanks for the great blOgden. It's helped me come to my senses.

    ReplyDelete
  12. AnonymousJuly 28, 2016

    Last night I realized that I am a shopaholic and I really have a serious problem. There was a fire in my home last month and all the clothing in my home was sent to a garment restoration service for cleaning. I should have realized that there was an issue when I noticed that three quarters of the factory was dedicated to cleaning my stuff when there were 5 other household "jobs" in progress..and I'm single. But my problem is now undeniable even to my delusional self. The cleaning company returned three small boxes of price tags to me. I knew I had some things that had not been worn in my closet; maybe a couple of thousand dollars worth of stuff. I wish! I have $20K of unworn clothing and that does not include the unused shoes (primarily Louboutins), handbags (Chanel, Bottega) and jewelry (Yurman, H. Stern). I must be crazy!!! These purchases have been made in the last couple of years. I seasonally consign and donate lots of stuff so none of it's old. Most of the shopaholic sites concentrate on getting out of debt and repairing financial relationships. I'm not in debt, all my stuff is paid for and I've never borrowed any money from friends or family but my retirement fund and savings account are severely lacking. What do I do now?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow, it is at the same time heartening to know I am not alone, but also makes me sad there are others in the same anguish I am was in. I am recovering. For many many long years I shoppe compulsively, mostly clothes and cosmetics - stupid things. I didn't make a lot of money and so there was precious little left for other things, often I had to forgo food at the end of the month because I spent so much earlier on.It didn't allow me to save for a home, or to go on vacations - the things at the end of the day that really are valuable. I had no way to build a savings. This lack of security just fueled the insecurity more - who would want me this way?? It was a horrible roller coaster I could not get off. I could not identify it at the time, but I now clearly see it was pretty much the same as what every one else here identified - lonely, feeling inadequate all the time, depressed. The hunt and purchase was a high, followed by a low. Needed another high ...and on and on. I think it was a contributing factor to why my business was not successful.
    I only really got out of the worst of it once I got married, and with that the knowledge that my husband loves me for me, and doesn't care a hoot about all the other stuff...I still have urges, but can see them better now. But with that " hole" filled. it is not such an overpowering urge as it was. I don't wish the anguish on anyone.

    Thank you for this great post.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've been dealing with a shopping addiction for years. This started as a child; going to rummage sales with my mother. My mom had a huge addiction and I learned it from her. I don't even speak to her anymore..... yet the addition still remains... been on anti depressants for quite a while.... doesn't seem to help much. Trying to limit myself to just a few shopping trips a year.... man this is tough!

    ReplyDelete

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