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Oniomania (from Greek onios = "for sale," mania = insanity[1]) is a term for the compulsive desire to shop. Oniomania is the technical term for the compulsive desire to shop, more commonly referred to as compulsive shopping, compulsive buying, shopping addiction or shopaholism. All of these are considered to be either clinical addictions or impulse control disorders, depending on the clinical source: First described by Kraepelin in 1915,[page needed] and then Bleuler in 1924,[page needed] as oneomania from the Greek oneomai, to buy, included among other pathological and reactive impulses, compulsive buying went largely ignored for nearly sixty years.


Psychiatrists[who?] often call oniomania a compulsive disorder or addiction, but it has only been accepted as a disorder by the Deutsche Gesellschaft Zwangserkrankungen (German organization for obsessive-compulsive disorders), for several years[2].[unreliable source?] In the United States, impulsive-compulsive buying behavior may be diagnosed as an Impulse control disorder - Not Otherwise Specified in the DSM-IV-TR.[3][page needed] It may be under consideration for inclusion as a separate specific Impulse-Control Disorder in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.[citation needed]

Only in the past twenty years has specific and persistent inquiry into the disorder occurred.[citation needed] Although the study of compulsive buying is still in its infancy compared with some of its psychological siblings[citation needed]alcoholism, eating disorders or drug abuse—there is more and more evidence that it poses a serious and worsening problem, one with significant emotional, social, occupational, and financial consequences.[citation needed] As many as 8.9 percent of the American population may be full-fledged compulsive buyers. (Ridgway, et al., 2008)[page needed], and the problem is fast becoming a global one.[citation needed]

The terms compulsive shopping, compulsive buying, and compulsive spending are often used interchangeably,[citation needed] but the behaviors they represent are in fact distinctly different (Nataraajan and Goff 1992)[page needed]. However, one may buy without shopping or certainly shop without buying. Most current researchers[who?] use the term compulsive buying and subscribe to an exceptionally specific definition proposed by McElroy and her colleagues (1994) as follows[page needed]:

1. Compulsive buying is a maladaptive preoccupation with buying or shopping, or maladaptive buying or shopping impulses or behavior, as indicated by either: frequent preoccupation with buying or impulses to buy that is/are experienced as irresistible, intrusive, and/or senseless, or frequent buying items that are not needed or cannot be afforded or shopping for longer periods of time than intended.

2. The buying preoccupations, impulses, or behaviors cause marked distress, are time-consuming, significantly interfere with social or occupational functioning, or result in financial problems, and they do not occur exclusively during periods of hypomania or mania.


Similar to other compulsive behaviors, sufferers often experience the highs and lows associated with addiction.[citation needed] Victims often experience moods of satisfaction when they are in the process of purchasing[citation needed], which seems to give their life meaning while letting them forget about their sorrows.[citation needed] Once leaving the environment where the purchasing occurred, the feeling of a personal reward has already gone.[citation needed] To compensate, the addicted person goes shopping again.[citation needed] Eventually a feeling of suppression will overcome the person.[citation needed] For example, cases have shownTemplate:Which? that the bought goods will be hidden or destroyed, because the person concerned feels ashamed of their addiction and tries to conceal it.[citation needed]



The addicted person gets into a vicious circle that consists of negative emotions like anger and stress, which lead to purchasing something.[citation needed] After the buying is over, the person is either regretful or depressed.[citation needed] In order to cope with the feelings, the addicted person resorts to another purchase.[citation needed]

Shopaholism often begins at an early age.[citation needed] Children who experience parental neglect often grow up with low self-esteem because throughout much of their childhood they experienced that they were not important as a person.[citation needed] As a result, they used toys to compensate for their feelings of loneliness.[citation needed] Adults that have 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.[citation needed] During adulthood, the purchase instead of the toy is substituted for affection.[citation needed] Shopaholics are unable to deal with their everyday problems, especially those that alter their self-esteem. Most of the issues in their lives are repressed by buying something.[citation needed]

This disorder is often linked to emotional deprivations in childhood, an inability to tolerate negative feelings, the need to fill an internal void, excitement seeking, excessive dependency, approval seeking, perfectionism, general impulsiveness and compulsiveness, and the need to gain control (DeSarbo and Edwards 1996, Faber et al. 1987, Benson, 2000)[page needed]. Compulsive buying seems to represent a search for self in people whose identity is neither firmly felt nor dependable.[citation needed] Most shopaholicsTemplate:Which? try to counteract feelings of low self-esteem through the emotional lift and momentary euphoria provided by compulsive shopping.[citation needed] These shoppers, who also experience a higher than normal rate of associated disorders—depression, bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and impulse-control disorders—may be using their symptom to self-medicate.[citation needed]


Social conditions may also play an important role,[citation needed] especially in capitalist societies that are dominated by a consumerist economy.[citation needed] Ubiquitous marketing and advertising promotes a culture of consumerism,[citation needed] by encouraging the creation of artificial needs.[citation needed] Debt, facilitated by credit cards, enable the casual spending beyond that of ones means.[citation needed] What differentiates oniomania from healthy shopping is this compulsive, destructive and chronic nature of the buying.[citation needed]


The consequences of oniomania, which may persist long after a spree, can be devastating.[citation needed] They may include crushing consumer debt, ruined credit history, theft or defalcation of money, defaulted loans, and general financial trouble.[citation needed] The resulting stress can lead to physical health problems, marital problems, ruined relationships, and in some cases, suicide.[citation needed]

See also

Further reading

  • Benson, A. I Shop Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying & the Search for Self, New York: Jason Aronson. 2000.
  • Benson, A. To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop Boston: Trumpeter Books, 2008.
  • Black, D.W. (2007). A review of compulsive buying disorder. World Psychiatry, 6, 1, pp. 14–18.
  • Bleuler, E. Textbook of Psychiatry. New York: Macmillan, 1924.
  • Catalano E. and Sonenberg, N. Consuming Passions: Help for Compulsive Shoppers. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, 1993.
  • DeSarbo WS and Edwards EA. “Typologies of Compulsive Buying Behavior: A Constrained Cluster-Wise Regression Approach.” Journal of Consumer Psychology 1996; 5: 231-252, 1996.
  • Elliott, R. “Addictive Consumption: Function and Fragmentation in Postmodernity.” Journal of Consumer Policy, 17, 159-179, 1994.
  • Faber, R. J., O’Guinn, T. C. and Krych, R. “Compulsive Consumption.” Advances in Consumer Research, 14, 132-135, 1987.
  • Kraepelin, E. Psychiatrie (8th ed.). Leipzig: Verlag von Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1915.
  • McElroy, SL, Phillips KA, Keck PE, Jr. “Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; 55[10, suppl]: 33-51,1994
  • Nataraajan, R. and Goff, B. “Manifestations of Compulsiveness in the Consumer-Marketplace Domain.” Psychology and Marketing, 9 (1), 31-44,1992.
  • Ridgway NM, Kukar-Kinney M, Monroe K. “An expanded conceptualization and a new measure of compulsive buying.” Journal of Consumer Research, 35, #4, 350-406, Dec. 2008.


  1. OMD. (2000, Mar 5). Retrieved, January 16, 2008, from
  2. Deutsche Gesellschaft Zwangserkrankungen
  3. Clinical Manual of Impulse-control Disorders, Eric Hollander and Dan J. Stein. Published by American Psychiatric Pub, 2006

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