I think most of us are aware of the normal sexual dysfunctions like Nymphomania, the “Sex Buddy” Syndrome, Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome and now we have condition that you need to watch out for, oniomania.
By now I’ve got your attention but I’ll have to let you down easy, oniomania isn’t a sexual dysfunction, it’s a shopping dysfunction. Sometimes the two can be intertwined, can’t they?
Oniomania comes from the greek word onios (for sale) and is another word for the urge to shop till you drop, habit of the debit, or thrill of the bill. According to a pearl of ancient wisdom, we don’t acquire things, things acquire us. In the case of oniomaniacs, it is perhaps the fun of acquiring things that acquires them.
In our western world this is a very common pattern of behavior. When we are feeling depressed or out of sorts, we go on a shopping spree. For some people however this has developed to problematic behavior. This makes it worse for the sufferers and their families as they become shrouded in confusion and embarrassment. Maybe because of this people do not often ask for help.
It’s a Saturday afternoon, you’re walking down the street and the sun is shining. You stop in front of a shop window, ‘just to check out the latest look’. But suddenly you feel your heart beating fast for there in front of you is the most beautiful pair of boots you have ever seen. You just have to have them. They have your name written all over so they were meant for you. You go in, try them on and all of a sudden you feel a lot better about yourself, you feel beautiful and cool.
What is wrong with that? Nothing, remember: a woman can never have enough shoes, gloves and hats. But what if a woman has all the shoes, gloves and hats she wants but no money to pay for them?
This year, debt advisors have seen a 16 per cent rise in the number of people coming to see them with large debts compared to 1999. Common problems include consumer debt difficulties with store cards, mail order and car loan repayments, loans, overdrafts and credit cards.
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 and 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.
It is easy to dismiss people who spend more than they can afford as irresponsible, but recent studies have shown that in some cases, the explanation is not quite as simple as this.
Four studies carried out in the UK, Germany, Canada and the US, indicate that between 2 and 10 per cent of the adult population have some compulsive shopping tendencies.
The addictive shopper will often have several credit or 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.
It’s a vicious circle as the impulse to buy is irresistible, like a drug addiction, and failure to spend leads to anguish. Soon after the purchase, guilt and regret follow. A cycle can be seen: firstly, the person has a feeling of insecurity, tension and anguish – anything can trigger the process, such as a fight with a loved one.
Next, the urge to buy comes, and it is uncontrollable – the person simply has to buy something. The act of buying brings short-lived relief, but after comes guilt, when they realize what they have done. Then the person feels low and the cycle starts again. Often, shopaholics do not think about whether they can afford what they are buying or if they really need it.
Many argue that society plays a big part in encouraging oniomania. These days it seems that status is defined by the things you own. The media is constantly telling us we need new clothes, new gadgets and always touting the latest ‘must-have’ products.
Here are some tips to protect yourself if you feel you may be at risk
- Do not carry credit card or /checkbooks around with you.
- Keep only a limited amount of cash on you – for essentials.
- Don’t window shop
- 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
Bottom line, don’t let your oniomania get out of control and just be aware of the hidden forces that send you shopping. By having a greater awareness of what is driving you to spend you can make conscious decisions about what you really must have, what you can afford and what would be just nice to have.
You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.