Oniomania, the compulsive shopper’s disorder

We can not deny that consumerism around Christmas is increasing dramatically. In fact, in the market there is a wide variety of products offered that are displayed to the public, being the object of the desire of thousands and thousands of consumers who walk past carefully assembled display cases full of items.

However, while the average consumer has constant eye contact with these consumer products, they lack the financial comfort to purchase them. This can lead to anxiety and frustration, and fuel the urge to own fashion items and products to differentiate yourself from others.

Oniomania: buying, one of the great modern pleasures

Being carried away by the act of excessive purchasing, beyond one’s own material possibilities, is unsustainable and for many families can lead to severe generalized discomfort due to the consequences it entails.

This abnormal acquisition of items is called compulsive buying and is defined as a persistent, irresistible, aggressive and repetitive purchase motivation, its action is felt as a pleasant sensation and discomfort reducer, but this in the long run can be a pattern of behavior that generates serious problems.

Currently, compulsive shopping affects between 1.1% and 5.9% of the general population.

Women are more compulsive in their purchases

A recent study published in the Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings (2015) concludes that among the subjects evaluated, women show a more compulsive attitude when making unnecessary purchases, And describe more pleasant and intense emotions than men. Otherwise, Kraepelin made the same conclusion, between 80% and 92% of the cases studied occur in women around 30 years old.

It is concluded that women tend to compulsively shop for clothes, shoes and accessories and that the few men who suffer from this addiction are more likely to spend money on electronic devices and items. from new technologies in general.

The psychological profile of a compulsive shopper

We are dealing with a psychological disorder, not a vice.

In the current DSM-IV (clinical diagnostic manual) this behavior is not described as a recognized disorderThus, the victim is relegated to the category of “unspecified impulse control disorder”

Among people with oniomania, a high degree of comorbidity is reported, so often compulsive shoppers meet criteria for other disordersSpecifically, those related to mood, anxiety, substance abuse and there are even studies that indicate a remarkable link with eating disorders.

Already classical studies on this subject reveal a certain hereditary tendency; McElroy and colleagues found that out of 18 compulsive shoppers, 17 had a family member with mood disorders, 11 with substance abuse, 3 with anxiety disorders, and 3 who had compulsive shopping.

The origins (causes) of oniomania

There are two possible origins that lead to the development of compulsive behavior. On the one hand, one of the causes refers to the relationship between performing a repetitive behavior that generates satisfaction. That is, a person begins to perform the buying behavior repeatedly because it brings you a strong dose of satisfaction and pleasure, Until it finally becomes a habit that ends in coercion.

Conversely, it can arise because the person does not feel able to cope with any aspect of their reality, or does not know how to deal with the personal issues that overwhelm them, so they seek to fill their gaps with purchases. excessive. In this case, compulsive behavior would be due to some kind of emotional escape route.

The 4 phases of compulsive shopping

We observe the phases that govern all compulsive shopping:

1. Anticipation

Thoughts, impulses and worries arise in relation to a particular product or the habit of buying

2. Preparation

Decisions are made as to where to buy the product, how to make payment (usually bank cards are used), how to get to the store or how to buy the product (online, physical store …). In some cases, additional information about the desired item is investigated.

3. Purchase

They live it as a frankly exciting and pleasant experience. For people with oniomania at the time of purchase, this is an expected moment and it makes them feel good.

4. Expenses and disappointments

Once the purchase has been made and the money has been spent, a feeling of disappointment arises with oneself with feelings of guilt, anger, resentment, and the firm intention not to repeat the behavior.

Why buy compulsively?

If we wanted to cover all the answer possibilities this question offers, I’m sure we wouldn’t have enough room, so we will only focus on the most common causes and those that most influence this compulsive behavior.

  • There is a real feeling of loneliness or personal emptiness. The person performing the behavior is confident that they will be able to fill this internal void, however, what happens after compulsive buying is that the void becomes larger and larger, entering a loop in which it’s hard to get out.
  • The feeling of buying a new product. The positive emotions that take place during the purchase can encourage the behavior to repeat itself.
  • During sales, the fear of losing a good deal it directly influences behavior, prompting the buyer to buy as early as possible.
  • The trouble itself led to make these purchases. You lose control and only pursue what is experienced as a vital need.

And after the purchase … what?

The compulsive buyer experiences, once the purchase action has taken place, strong feelings of guilt and anxiety which can even trigger triggers in depressive cases in response to excessive behavior and spending.

However, these effects cannot be attributed solely to irrational shopping, as most people who exhibit this behavior also have strong compulsive traits, which manifest as certain behavioral, cognitive, and / or symptomatic symptoms. In order to overcome these feelings of anxiety and depressed mood, the person may resort to new purchases, so that the circle gets smaller and smaller.

It is this dynamic of looping activities that makes shopping a bit compulsive which makes it very difficult to take off. Among other things, because recognizing that we are addicted to something is a blow to our beliefs and our ideas which can be explained by the theory of cognitive dissonance: the more we buy, the more we are obliged to justify this habit. while doing more shopping. In this way, compulsive shoppers have more and more room to maneuver, and the situation worsens as the lack of money becomes more and more evident, which makes oniomania a problem in many areas. of life.

Treatments for oniomania

they exist different ways of approaching these cases. Sometimes several types of treatment can be used simultaneously or in a chain.

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy begins by expressing the need to introduce a change in the lives of those who suffer from the obsession with shopping.

It is very important find out how the person sees themselves and how they try to meet their needsIn addition to analyzing what types of ideas govern your personality to start modifying them. In the psychological treatment of the cognitive-behavioral model, people with oniomania are also trained to manage their states of anxiety, both by recognizing this emotion and modulating its influence on the body, preventing it from being expressed through harmful behaviors such as compulsive shopping.

Excellent results have been observed thanks to group therapies, where own experience is shared with subjects presenting the same problem.

2. Pharmacological treatment

Currently, drug therapy (SSRI) used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder has been shown to be the most effective because the premeditation associated with the act of buying it could respond to that of an obsession and its physical behavior resembles that of a compulsive ritual. The only difference between a compulsive shopper and someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is that the latter’s behavior is completely involuntary from the start.

As mentioned, both treatments can be done at the same time, providing better results.

5 last tips to beware of this obsession

These tips apply at any time of the year, but they can come in handy during Christmas and on sale times when it is easier for us to feel a greater need to buy products and items.

  • Avoid last minute purchases
  • Shopping by public transport
  • Write down what you will need in a list
  • Avoid buying in times of euphoria or discouragement
  • Prepare a weekly budget

Bibliographical references:

  • Dell’Osso, B .; Altamura, AC; Allen, A .; Marazziti, D .; Hollander, E. (2006). Epidemiological and clinical updates on impulse control disorders: a critical review. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. 256 (8): pages 464 to 475.
  • Hartston, H, J .; Coran, L., M. (2002). Impulsive behavior in a consumer culture. ”International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 6 (2): pp. 65-68.
  • Kellett S .; Bolton JV (2009). Compulsive shopping: a cognitive-behavioral model. »Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 16 (2): pages 83 to 99.

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