A shopaholic is someone who has a compulsive desire to shop. Other terms often used are compulsive shopping, shopping addiction, and compulsive buying. The clinical term is “oniomania”, pronounced (own-nee-o-mania) It is not listed in the current Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual. However, it is expected to be addressed in the upcoming version.
There is some disagreement in the psychiatric community as to what type of disorder compulsive shopping really is. Some believe it falls under the category of impulse control disorders, like kleptomania and pyromania. Others believe it is more of an OCD type disorder in which feelings of anxiety are relieved by carrying out certain ritualistic actions. Still others believe it to be an addiction much like an addition to gambling, sex, or alcohol. Compulsive shopping seems to have elements of all three of these disorders.
Compulsive shopping and spending is described as a pattern of chronic, repetitive purchasing that becomes difficult to stop and ultimately results in harmful consequences. It is sometimes defined as an impulse control disorder but has features of OCD and is similar to other addictive disorders without involving the use of an intoxicating drug.
“Psychiatrists do believe that the behavior can be triggered by a need to feel special and to combat loneliness, as well as a hope that shopping will somehow change them for the better. But compulsive shopping satisfies none of those needs and therefore the shopper’s behavior may escalate.” Pamela Klafkee.
Compulsive shopping is believed to affect approximately 6% of the population with over 80% of those being female.
Below are ten signs that you may be a compulsive shopper:
- Shopping or spending money as a result of being disappointed, angry, or depressed.
- Having emotional distress or chaos in personal and family life because of shopping or spending money.
- Having arguments with others regarding shopping or spending habits.
- Feeling lost without credit cards.
- Buying items on credit that could not be bought with cash.
- Spending money feels like a reckless or forbidden act.
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, or confused after shopping or spending money.
- Lying to others, especially the spouse, about what was bought or how much money was spent.
- Juggling accounts and bills to accommodate spending.
- Maxing out credit cards or running up substantial debt because of spending habits.
While doctors do not know for sure, what causes compulsive shopping there does seem to be a pattern or profile among those who engage in compulsive shopping. Like many addictions, the behavior is meant to fill some kind of an “emotional void”.
This disorder has been linked to emotional deprivations in childhood, an inability to tolerate negative feelings, the need to fill an internal void, excessive dependency, approval seeking, and the need to gain control.
Compulsive shoppers seem to have a childhood history where material things, gifts, toys, etc were used to compensate for a lack of emotional nurturing. Much like a mother who is only able to show love through cooking and preparing food (something that is believed to lead to compulsive eating) compulsive spending is a way to fill an emotional void that was left empty since childhood.
A true shopaholic shops out of compulsion. They will make purchases long after they are over their heads in debt. They shop when they are feeling emotionally distressed, and use spending as a coping mechanism. They do not shop because they merely enjoy it, or because they are purchasing things that they have a need for. They buy things because they feel they have to. A shopaholic like all other addicts is “out of control”.
The following 15 item self-assessment is intended to help you determine your level of compulsive shopping and buying habits and assist you in considering whether to seek help. This self-test refers to shopping and/or buying that may be done in stores, online, by phone, TV, or other means.
Shopping Addiction Assessment
For more information on shopping addiction including informaiton on how and where to get help visit, Shopaholics Anomymous.
Source material: healthyplace.com, psychology today, psychiatric times, wikipedia