There’s no rational reason to indulge it . . . to sip it, sniff it, smoke it, snort it, shoot it or swipe it. Addiction negates reason. Yes, even a shopping addiction. It’s a disease that whispers poison in one ear while plugging its thumb in the other to ensure its toxicity marinates the brain as it would a raw slab of steak. It’ll tell an addict every lie in the book in order to continue putting food in its own mouth, whether that food be fed via the bottle, the blunt, the needle or even, yes, the credit card.
Why Does One Develop A Shopping Addiction?
Shopping addiction, also known as oniomania, is a compulsion to spend money, regardless of need or financial means. And the addiction isn’t limited to any one product. Clothes, furniture, electronics, flowers, cars, houses . . . any one of these items (and plenty more) are potential pain-relieving potions to the addicted shopper. Given the right circumstances, a person can become addicted to just about anything that can be consistently accumulated in large amounts.
Research conducted by World Psychiatry indicates that 5.8 percent of Americans suffer from oniomania. Like any other addiction, oniomania is often a symptom of the addict’s anxiety, low self-esteem and possibly even a mood disorder. According to Kimberly Palmer at U.S. News, shopping addiction is also a reaction to a culture that glorifies materialism and dignifies deriving one’s self-worth from acquiring possessions.
Despite the financial debt the addict piles up, regardless of the hoarded clutter clogging their home (some addicts can’t even move between rooms) they continue to blow funds on things they don’t need in order to seek approval, admiration and fulfillment. Nostalgia item shoppers even cop a high from the illusion of community they feel when purchasing old-school memorabilia they believe few others are able to appreciate.
Out of embarrassment and shame, shopping addicts become extremely skilled at hiding their affliction. And according to an About Health article, the anonymity of online shopping has only reinforced the secretive efforts of the oniomaniac. Nonetheless, there are several telling symptoms that can reveal an active problem to a friend of an addict or to the addict themselves:
• Constant use of credit cards instead of cash
• Shopping as self-medication for depression, anxiety, anger and isolation
• Concealing excessive purchases from family and friends
• Opening new credit accounts in order to keep shopping
• Feeling guilt and shame after a shopping spree and even returning items out of guilt
• Ignoring one’s budget and spending more money than one actually possesses
• Arguing with friends or family over one’s excessive spending
Treatments for Shopping Addiction
Although the mirage that materialism equals fulfillment is a significant motivation for shopping addicts, the thrill of the buy is truly the oniomaniac’s ultimate goal. The act of the purchase is the high. It’s the needle in the vein, the drag of the spliff, the pop of the pill. And as soon as the item is bought, bagged and de-tagged, it immediately begins to lose its value. Then, it’s on to the next big purchase that will undoubtedly make everything right as rain again.
But, how does one break that cycle?
Strategies for treating the thrill of the buy do exist just as treatments exist for any other addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy has produced successful results in oniomaniacs, often by teaching addicts skills such as identifying triggers, avoiding a trip to the store when depressed or anxious and using cash instead of credit cards. In fact, some researchers suggest paying off, canceling and destroying all credit cards (save one credit card only to be used in emergencies).
Additionally, 12-Step Recovery programs such as Shopaholics Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous offer shopping addicts positive support and empathetic companionship during recovery. But, first and foremost, the oniomaniac must be aware of and willing to confront their shopping addiction.
Despite the prevalence of oniomania, it’s still often mistakenly attributed to selfishness, a mere lack of self-control and overall poor character. Skeptics reduce a legitimate psychological and spiritual malady down to a simple decision to choose right over wrong and to say ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’. However, what said folks don’t realize is that, even though shopping addiction doesn’t render its host physically dependent upon the exchange of a bill or the swipe of a credit card, it does render the very self-worth and soul of the host dependent upon that just not quite satisfying ‘thrill of the buy.’