The reality of shopping addiction

When people hear the word addict, many would likely think of alcoholism or drug abuse. But there is an addiction that can stem from doing something that many do every day: shopping.

Oniomania is an uncontrollable desire to buy things. The word onios comes from the Greek meaning “for sale” and mania meaning "excessive excitement or enthusiasm," according to

“Some shopping addicts grow up in homes where shopping addiction was presented, so they have an increased risk," says Terrence Shulman, the founder and director of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding. “In other cases, shopping addicts grow up in homes where they felt deprived of material things. In most cases, there is a lack of decent emotional nurturance and sometimes downright neglect and abuse.”

Today’s modern society is a consumer society, with advertising encouraging people to purchase more.

"There is media that a lot of people think is just regular content, but the truth is they are trying to sell something," says Lynn Dickinson, media professor at Santa Monica College. "We are bombarded with advertising and marketing in the media entirely, 24 hours a day, pretty much."

“Many people try to use shopping as others use drugs, alcohol or food to fill a void, numb pain, or distract themselves from stress or difficult life issues,” says Shulman. “Our culture encourages shopping and once a shopaholic gets going, it’s hard to stop it, especially with TV and Internet shopping. It can be like crack cocaine.”

Excessive shopping may be more common than people think.

“Between six and nine percent of Americans suffer from compulsive shopping or buying disorder," says Shulman. "I think it’s closer to 10 percent."

With the advent of the Internet, shopping for practically anything is only a click away.

"There is no doubt that the United States of America has moved from being a producer culture to a consumer culture,” says Dickinson. “We are now a culture that consumes and evaluates our values."

Credit cards can also influence the consumer culture. A student is only required to be 21-years-old and have a co-signer to get a credit card, according to

The Schulman Center website recommends to cut credit cards and use cash instead, in order to easily monitor the amount of cash that is being spent.

Online shopping has increased dramatically in recent years. Retail shopping websites made $186.2 billion in 2012, according to the statistics website Statista.

There are various types of shopping disorders, according to the Shulman Center's website.

Compulsive shopping refers to a person that purchases to distract emotions. Trophy shoppers are those who buy high-end clothing items. Image shoppers are more concerned with their appearance and how others perceive them. Bargain shoppers are defined as people who buy things that they necessarily do not need, but purchase because it is a good deal. Codependent shoppers buy things for other people in order to receive affection and appreciation. Bulimic shoppers return what they buy. Collector shoppers buy many sets of the same item.

Shulman recommends that if you are suffering from these types of addictions, avoid places that may cause shopping temptation. Make a list before going to any store, ask yourself if you need the item before buying it, and cancel magazine, email and TV subscriptions.

"Today's magazines are consumer training for people," says Dickinson.

Shulman also recommends specialized counseling, therapy, medication, and support groups.

There are behavioral, cognitive therapy and financial counseling for shopaholics to consider, depending on what kinds of shopping addiction the person has.

"There are some people who seem to respond to the kind of messages that everyone is getting in a really extreme way, and I think for those people, shopping became a reward for them, but I think that is an illness,“ says Dickinson. “I believe our culture is moving as a whole toward that illness, and the media supports shopaholics. People who create advertising wish we were all shopaholics, and it would be ideal for them."

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