"Onionmania" or Otherwise Known as Shopping Addiction

Community Member

When I first heard this word I thought for sure that it was some sort of excitement for onions. But in fact this is a term used for what is commonly known as a shopping addiction. Wikipedia defines Onionmania as a term derived from the Greek onios which means for sale and mania which means insanity. You will not find Onionmania as a recognized disorder in the DSM-IV American Psychiatric Association manual. Instead, quite frequently you will find that shopaholism is downplayed as a lighthearted trend in our society. Remember the motto, "When times are tough, the tough go shopping"? Some politicians might even argue that shopping is good for the economy. We are constantly being urged to spend above our means. Armed with a credit card, we do not have to delay gratification. We can fill our material desires instantly, in the form of whatever fills our collective shopping bags. Although onionmania cannot truly be classified as a

physical addiction, complete with withdrawal symptoms, it can result in potential disaster for the person experiencing this type of compulsion.

So who has Onionmania amongst us? According to a 2006 Stanford University study, shopping addiction affects as many as 6% of the US population and it appears to affect men and women in roughly equal numbers.

What are some of the signs that you may have a shopping addiction? Heather Hatfield, in an article entitled, Shopping Spree or Addiction?, lists some of the behaviors you might see with a shopping addiction including:

Spending beyond your means: This usually means maxing out your credit cards and available cash. There is due to the fact that the individual often doesn't know what their maximum limit truly is and so they spend without thinking of any monetary boundaries.

Compulsive Spending: Compulsive spending is when you really do not need the purchase you are about to make but you buy it anyway on impulse. What doesn't help nowadays is the fact that you can now buy anything and everything on-line even if you are not able to physically get to stores. Also there is a proliferation of shopping channels which air twenty-four hours a day every day such as the QVC channel.

Hiding Purchases: When you start hiding your purchases and sales slips from loved ones and especially your spouse, then this can be a sign of a growing problem. Many people find out the spending secrets of their spouse only when they get a divorce

Continuous Cycle of Buying and then Returning:: A lot of people with a shopping addiction will buy a tons of stuff only to return it the next day. It is the material version of binging and purging. The shopoholic will feel guilty after making a purchase and then try to feel better by returning the items only to repeat the cycle in a short matter of time.

Feeling a High from Shopping: Shopping can be a very pleasurable experience but if you are relying on going shopping in order to feel good then this can be a sign of a problem.

So why does this happen? I think that mood disorders are much of the reason behind a shopping addiction. Certainly with Bipolar Disorder, one of the symptoms can be reckless and impulsive spending. I knew of one lady who suffers from Bipolar Disorder who went and bought a house without telling her husband. It happens. Depression, too, can lead us to behaviors we truly do not wish to have. When you feel depressed it may drive a desire to fill ourselves up with something in order to ease the pain and emptiness. We search for the fix to replace the negative feelings and shopping is one way people do this. But the pleasure fades quickly and so you keep upping the ante in order to feel good with more and more purchases.

The truth is that no material thing is going to fill you up. You need to find other ways to fill the empty spaces.

What can be done if you are a compulsive shopper?

Here are some ideas:

  • Shop with a friend or loved one who can help you to control your spending and help to set boundaries. Don't shop with friends who are in the same boat of wanting to spend impulsively. I have one friend who tells me I deserve to buy impulse purchases and this "logic" always wins me over. No...you deserve to not be in debt!

  • Make a shopping list and stick to it. Most overspending is due to buying things on impulse because it is on sale or looks good or is just one or two little things. Those "little" things add up let me tell you.

  • Use cash instead of credit if you can. When you have that credit card you can tell yourself that it doesn't matter that you are going over budget. If you have a set amount of cash then you have clear physical boundaries which will make you think before you buy.

  • Delay Gratification and Wait: This is the hardest thing to do. They tell you this for eating snacks too. When you want a snack, wait ten minutes and usually the urge to snack will greatly diminish. With shopping, wait a day or two. Now do you still want that impulse buy? Probably not.

  • Fill yourself up with Other stuff: Instead of shopping spend some time with your kids, or friends, or loved ones doing things which do not require making purchases. Take a walk, spend time with nature, watch a movie, read a book, write, draw, paint, sing, or anything else which gives you pleasure. When you do shop, make it meaningful and conscious. Buy things you truly need and want.

I think that with the economy as it is, we will all need to think more clearly about our financial expenditures. Shopping can be a quick fix to feel momentary pleasure but there are drawbacks we need to consider. Financial peace of mind can be a lot more gratifying than the next big sale purchase that will probably be seen at your next garage sale. Be kind to yourself by not giving into compulsion. You are gonna feel a whole lot better in the long run.