Shopping addiction is a serious and destructive behavioural disorder involving a persistent struggle to manage the compulsive urge to shop for items and is compounded by the routine preoccupation with buying goods and shopping, whether on the high-street or online.
Oniomania, a compulsion to shop is believed to affect between 8-16% of adults in the UK during their lifetime and is primarily observed in women in their late teens or early twenties very often for fashion items and to keep up with the current trends.
This repeated emotional rollercoaster experienced with shopping addiction leads to frequent shopping trips and an uncontrollable urge to shop despite being aware of the potential consequences, including feeling guilty or ashamed afterwards, getting into financial difficulty and relationship problems as a result of not curbing excessive shopping habits.
Shopping addiction is considered the most socially reinforced behavioural addiction. The stigma attached to excessive drug or alcohol use in modern society doesn’t apply to compulsive shopping habits, with a consumerist lifestyle perceived as a measure of social status across much of the western world exacerbating the problem for many, while society gender roles may explain the high level of women with the disorder as opposed to men.
Usually perceived as a positive activity and a pleasurable distraction away from work or studies, people developing a compulsion to shop may be more prone to wanting to repeat the feel-good reward that buying a product creates in our brains. Much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, shopping addiction happens because of a desire to make the brain release ‘happy chemicals’ such as dopamine and endorphin which are involved in all activities related to shopping, from entering a shop and browsing through to the ultimate act of purchasing. It is believed that between 10 to 15% of people are predisposed to becoming addicted to the brain’s release of these feel-good chemicals, which can be triggered after purchasing an item.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine the difference between having a chronic shopping addiction and just enjoying a shopping spree. While there are similarities between the two, key factors setting them apart include:
Shopping addiction – taking place at any time and often being part of a routine as opposed to an activity out of normal behaviour, signs of a shopping addiction include spending more money than you can afford on desired items, simply because you feel an urge to have them.
A shopping addiction may involve several shopping trips within a short period of time, each characterised by excessive and compulsive shopping habits. While many people like to shop during time off, at weekends, or during seasonal holiday periods such as at Christmas, shopping addiction involves an overwhelming urge to shop and subsequently spend until it begins to adversely affect your life. This may include overspending and taking out several store credit cards in order to be able to purchase items, even if you may be aware that this could incur long-term financial debt.
Shopping spree – during a shopping spree, you may be more likely to spend larger sums of money than usual, or buy more items than you would during a typical shopping trip, although this will only extend to the amount of money you can afford to spend.
Not sure if it needs to end with the kind of treatment which is available for Oniomania?