Compulsive Shopping or Compulsive buying behavior also called ‘oniomania’ is a condition wherein there is the excessive, unnecessary and impulsive purchase of items in spite of severe psychological and financial consequences. Compulsive shoppers buy things in order to feel better, deal with their stress, improve their self-image and gain social approval rather than based on their value and utility. Following their compulsive purchases, these people regret their purchases, feel guilty and ashamed of themselves and promise to not repeat this cycle only to go back to it again. The items purchased are not necessarily expensive but are purchased in large quantities and are usually never used.
Dr. Gaurang Surti Consultant Psychiatrist Axis Hospital, Andheri (W), Mumbai explained, Enjoying shopping and spending a bit more than intended from time to time doesn’t make a person a compulsive shopper.
So how do you recognize a compulsive shopper?
- Preoccupation with shopping
- Spending great deal of time shopping and buying
- Buying unnecessary things in large quantities
- Unable to resist the impulse to buy something
- Shopping inspite of financial problems
- Feeling of happiness immediately after shopping
- Guilt or remorse later on
- Shame, embarrassment, and efforts to hide shopping.
- Shopping in response to emotional problems like loneliness or sadness
- Leads to significant problems in work, conflicts in relationships and family, academic problems etc.
Online shopping is more attractive to compulsive shoppers as there is an ability to buy without being seen or judged, avoid social interactions, and seek variety in purchases, and experience pleasure at the same time.
Compulsive buying is associated with psychological problems like anxiety, mood disorders, substance use, and other impulse control disorders. Compulsive buyers are found to be more impulsive with novelty-seeking and reward dependence traits and may also have other behavioral addictions like gambling disorder or sexual addiction. It can have adverse financial, relationship, and occupational consequences. In spite of this, it is not recognized as a distinct behavioral addiction in any of the International Classification systems.
Simple techniques to avoid compulsive shopping:
- Confide in a friend and take them for shopping with you next time.
- Make a list of required items before going for shopping and try to stick to it.
- Avoid online shopping as much as possible
- Avoid using credit cards. Stick to cash payments to keep yourself in check.
- Avoid going for shopping when bored or upset.
- Find alternative activities to engage in instead of shopping.