Wednesday, April 22, 2009

51 - Oniomania

Oniomania (from Greek onios = "for sale," mania = insanity) is a medical 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. First described by Bleuler in 1915, and then Kraepelin in 1924, 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 often call oniomania a disorder, but it has only been accepted as a disorder by the Deutsche Gesellschaft Zwangserkrankungen (German organization for obsessive-compulsive disorders), for several years. In the United States, impulsive-compulsive buying behavior may be diagnosed as an Impulse control disorder - Not Otherwise Specified in the DSM-IV-TR. 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.

Only in the past twenty years has specific and persistent inquiry into the disorder occurred. Although the study of compulsive buying is still in its infancy compared with some of its psychological siblings—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. As many as 8.9 percent of the American population may be full-fledged compulsive buyers. (Ridgway, et al., 2008), and the problem is fast becoming a global one.

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

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. Victims often experience moods of satisfaction when they are in the process of purchasing, which seems to give their life meaning while letting them forget about their sorrows. Once leaving the environment where the purchasing occurred, the feeling of a personal reward has already gone. To compensate, the addicted person goes shopping again. Eventually a feeling of suppression will overcome the person. For example, cases have shown that the bought goods will be hidden or destroyed, because the person concerned feels ashamed of their addiction and tries to conceal it.

The addicted person gets into a vicious circle that consists of negative emotions like anger and stress, which lead to purchasing something. After the buying is over, the person is eitherregretful or depressed. In order to cope with the feelings, the addicted person resorts to another purchase.
Shopaholism often begins at an early age. 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. As a result, they used toys to compensate for their feelings of loneliness. 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. During adulthood, the purchase instead of the toy is substituted for affection. 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.

Social conditions may also play an important role, especially in capitalist societies that are dominated by a consumerist economy where buying is an important part of daily life. Credit cards facilitate the spending of money as well as mail order via catalogues or the Internet. What differentiates oniomania from healthy shopping is the compulsive, destructive nature of the buying.

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). Compulsive buying seems to represent a search for self in people whose identity is neither firmly felt nor dependable. Most shopaholics try to counteract feelings of low self-esteem through the emotional lift and momentary euphoria provided by compulsive shopping. These shoppers, who also experience a higher than normal rate of associated disorders—depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and impulse-control disorders—may be using their symptom to self-medicate. Underlying (or at least intensifying) the deeply felt need of problem shoppers is our nationwide outbreak of “affluenza,” the modern American plague of materialism and overconsumption.

The consequences of oniomania, which may persist long after a spree, can be devastating. They may include crushing consumer debt, theft or defalcation of money, defaulted loans, and general financial trouble. Sufferers often come into conflict with the law.
The “smiled upon addiction,” as Catalano and Sonnenberg have called it (1993), is smiled upon in two senses: it is at once a source of wry humor and at the same time a behavior much inflamed by our ever present marketing machinery. As a result, compulsive shopping may be an even greater source of guilt and shame than alcoholism or drug abuse.

In the USA and Canada there are support groups for shopping-addicted people:
Debtors Anonymous
Recovery Connection for Addiction Treatment 
Shopping Addicts Only, Yahoo Group
Stopping Overshopping Group Telephone Coaching Program .

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