From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search

Oniomania (from Greek ὤνιος onios "for sale" and μανία mania "insanity"[1]) is the technical term for the compulsive desire to shop, more commonly referred to as compulsive shopping, shopping addiction, shopaholism, compulsive buying or CBD.

Compulsive shopping may be considered an impulse control disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, a bipolar disorder,[2] or even a clinical addiction, depending on the clinical source.

History and current status[edit]

The buying addiction is a mental disorder among consumers, which is expressed as compulsive, episodic purchasing goods. It is similar to gambling addiction or the addiction to work is not seen as an independent disease but counted among the non-bonded addictions or to the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Emil Kraepelin originally described oniomania over a century ago,[3] and he and Bleuler [1924] both included the syndrome in their influential early psychiatric textbooks.[4] However little interest was taken in CB until the 1990s,[5] and even in the 21st century compulsive shopping can be considered a barely recognised mental illness.[6]

Research in this area is only in the last decades catching up with that into comparable areas such as alcoholism, eating disorders or drug abuse.[7] There is growing evidence that it is a significant and worsening problem with serious consequences, emotional and financial,[8] and affecting perhaps as many as 8.9 percent of the American population.[9]

As consumer outlets multiply globally, on- and off-line, so too other areas of the world are catching up with the US in oniomania.[10]

The only not-for-profit organisation raising awareness of oniomania and shopping addiction in the world is the Australia-based Blue Star Foundation -"The first in the world to take on this cause. We aim to raise awareness and provider helpful information for the sufferers."[citation needed]


The terms compulsive shopping, compulsive buying, and compulsive spending are often used interchangeably, but the behaviors they represent are in fact distinct. (Nataraajan and Goff 1992)[page needed] One may buy without shopping, and certainly shop without buying: of compulsive shoppers, some 30% described the act of buying itself as providing a buzz,[11] irrespective of the goods purchased.

Symptoms and course[edit]

Four diagnostic criteria for compulsive buying have been proposed: 1. Over-preoccupation with buying; 2. distress or impairment as a result of the activity; 3. the compulsive buying is not limited to hypomanic or manic episodes.[12]

While initially triggered by a perhaps mild need to feel special and less lonely, the failure of compulsive shopping to actually meet such needs may lead to a vicious cycle of escalation,[13] with sufferers experiencing the highs and lows associated with other addictions.[14] The 'high' of the purchasing may be followed by a sense of disappointment, and of guilt,[15] precipitating a further cycle of impulse buying in the quest for a sense of special identity.[16] With the now addicted person increasingly feeling negative emotions like anger and stress, they may attempt to self-medicate through further purchases,[17] followed again by regret or depression once they return home[18] - leading to an urge for yet another spree.

As debt grows, so the compulsive shopping may become a more secretive act.[19] At the point where bought goods are hidden or destroyed, because the person concerned feels so ashamed of their addiction, the price of the addiction in mental, financial and emotional terms becomes even higher.[20]



Shopaholism often has roots in early experience, with failed parent-child transactions leading people to turn to objects to fill the sense of void and empty identity.[21] Children who experience parental neglect often grow up with low self-esteem because throughout much of their childhood they felt unimportant as people, and turned to substitute comforts,[22] such as toys or food, in compensation for loneliness. Adults who depended on materials for emotional support when they were much younger are more likely to become addicted to shopping because of the ongoing sentiment of deprivation they endured as children: the purchase instead of the toy or the food is substituted for affection. Perfectionism, general impulsiveness and compulsiveness, and the need to gain control have also been linked to the disorder.[23]

Compulsive buying seems to represent a search for self in people whose identity is neither firmly felt nor dependable, as indicated by the way purchases often provide social or personal identity-markers.[24] Those with associated disorders such as anxiety, depression and poor impulse control are particularly likely to be attempting to treat symptoms of low self-esteem through compulsive shopping.[25]

Others, however, object that such psychological explanations for compulsive buying do not apply to all people with CBD.[26]


Social conditions also play an important role in oniomania, the rise of consumer culture contributing to the view of compulsive buying as a specifically postmodern addiction.[27]

Readily available credit cards enable casual spending beyond one's means, and some would suggest that the compulsive buyer should lock up or destroy credit cards altogether.[28] Online shopping also facilitates oniomania, with online auction addiction, used to escape feelings of depression or guilt, becoming a recognisable problem.[29]

What differentiates oniomania from healthy shopping is the compulsive, destructive and chronic nature of the buying. Where shopping can be a positive root to self-expression, in excess it represents a dangerous threat.[30]


The consequences of oniomania, which may persist long after a spree, can be devastating, with marriages, long-term relationships, and jobs all feeling the strain.[31] Further problems can include ruined credit history, theft or defalcation of money, defaulted loans, general financial trouble and in some cases bankruptcy or extreme debt, as well as anxiety and a sense of life spiralling out of control.[32]

The resulting stress can lead to physical health problems and ruined relationships, or even suicide.[33]


Oniomania is the most frequent comorbid impulse disorder in people suffering from pathological gambling.[34]

Cultural examples[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OMD. (2000, Mar 5). Retrieved, January 16, 2008, from http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?oniomania
  2. ^ April Lane Benson/Marie Gengler, "Treating Compulsive Buying" in Robert H. Coombs, Handbook of Addictive Disorders (2004), p. 455
  3. ^ Donald W. Black, 'A review of compulsive buying disorder'
  4. ^ R. J. Frances et al., Clinical Textbook of Addictive Disorders (2005) p. 315
  5. ^ Black
  6. ^ Jon E. Grant/S. W. Kim, Stop Me Because I Can't Stop Myself (2004) p. 16
  7. ^ Benson/Gengler, p. 451
  8. ^ Benson/Gengler p. 251
  9. ^ Nancy M. Ridgway, Monika Kukar‐Kinney and Kent B. Monroe, An Expanded Conceptualization and a New Measure of Compulsive Buying, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 35, No. 4 (December 2008), pp. 622-639, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/591108
  10. ^ Benson/Gengler, p. 453
  11. ^ Helga Dittmar, "Understanding and Diagnosing Compulsive Buying", in Robert H. Coombs, Handbook of Addictive Disorders (2004) p. 438
  12. ^ Frances, p. 315
  13. ^ Pamela Klaffke, Spree (2004) p. 185
  14. ^ Klaffke, p. 185
  15. ^ Lucy Costigan, Women and Healing (2006) p. 208
  16. ^ Helga Dittmar, "Understanding and Diagnosing Compulsive Buying", in Robert H. Coombs, Handbook of Addictive Disorders (2004) p. 442
  17. ^ Dittmar, p. 426
  18. ^ Dittmar, p. 424
  19. ^ Klaffke, p. 185
  20. ^ Catalano and Sonenberg, in Costigan, p. 208
  21. ^ Elias Aboujaourde/Lorrin M. Koran, Impulse Control Disorders (Cambridge 2010) p. 8
  22. ^ Patrick Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (London 1990) p. 127
  23. ^ April Lane Benson, I Shop Therefore I Am (2000)
  24. ^ Aboujaourde/Koran, p. 8
  25. ^ April Lane Benson/Marie Gengler, "Treating Compulsive Buying" in Coombs, p. 451
  26. ^ Aboujaourde/Koran, p. 9
  27. ^ Dittmar, p. 417
  28. ^ Dennis Hayes, Beyond the Silicon Curtain (1989) p. 145
  29. ^ Elen Lewis, The eBay Phenomenon (2008) p. 95
  30. ^ April Lane Benson and Marie Gengler, "Treating Compulsive Buying", in Coombs, p. 452
  31. ^ Klaffke, p. 430
  32. ^ Bruno Zumo, Advances in quality of life research, 2001 (2002) p. 164
  33. ^ Grant/Kim, p. 36
  34. ^ Jon E. Grant/Marc N. Potenza, Pathological Gambling (2004) p. 43
  35. ^ Jay McInerney, The Good Life (London 2007) p. 159
  36. ^ Black

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]