A very common pattern of behaviour in our western world when we are feeling depressed or out of sorts, is to go on a shopping spree. For some people however this has developed to problematic behaviour. Compulsive shopping/buying or spending, is also known by the scientific term 'oniomania'.

Shopaholics are often, though not, by any means always, women. For many people, shopping provides an activity acceptable to society to change our mood. The advertisements scream out at us everywhere we look, from telephone boxes to junk mail, 'come buy me today', 'you need me now', and 'I'll heal your mood.' As with all addictions when the addictive trances wear off, the desire to get another 'fix' becomes very strong.

In her book 'I shop therefore I am' Dr. Benson states: 'that as many as 1⁄4 of us have problems with buying and studies suggest that between 1 - 6 % of the population are fully fledged compulsive buyers'*.

The addictive shopper will often have several credit/store cards; they may go out in a compulsive or uncontrolled manner and buy many of the same items all at once, items they may not want or need. They may feel guilty after a spending spree then get depressed, so to combat the depression go out and spend more money. This is a very serious addiction and should not be looked upon any differently to any other addiction.

Are you having trouble controlling your spending?

Do you experience a sense of excitement/elevated mood while out shopping?

Do people close to you express concern over the amount of time/money you spend shopping?

Do you find yourself shopping even though you'd previously decided you did not want to/had vowed not to?

Is your buying causing problems in other areas of your life such as relationships, finances or social life?

The compulsive shopper may also have various items at home, tucked away still in their original packaging. Some may be continually returning the items, or disposing of them in other ways.

There are a number of possible reasons for developing this condition known as oniomania: research in the UK has revealed that most women, who have a problem with this compulsion, shop to increase their self esteem - buying things that they think will make them seem more prosperous, glamorous or intelligent ...or whatever. It is also sometimes a cure for loneliness, sadness or possibly anger. In addition, there is research from Stanford University, California, USA, which has revealed a link between clinical depression and compulsive shopping. This has led to the prescribing, in some cases, of anti-depressant medications to help combat oniomania.

Some tips to protect yourself if you feel you may be at risk:

Do not carry credit cards/cheque books around with you.

Keep only a limited amount of cash on you - for essentials.

Don't window shop - 'lead us not into temptation!'

Don't play games or try to justify purchases.

Try to avoid advertisements, where possible.

Plan alternative activities when you would normally be out shopping.

Talk it over with someone else - contact us if you like.

* Benson Dr. A. L. (2000). 'I shop, therefore I am' compulsive buying and the search for self. Jason Aronson Inc USA.

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