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Oniomania, shopaholic addiction

God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need, Fight Club.

The society in which we live in can be defined in many ways, such as an information society, a true global village or a consumer society.

We live in a capitalist world economy where large corporations are very powerful and bombard us with constant, aggressive, and very effective advertising for stuff we usually don’t need. It is a hedonistic society that borrows and goes deeper and deeper into debt. Many people buy goods and services that they cannot even afford. It is a society that suggests the idea of getting something for nothing. Can you not afford it? No problem! You can access easy loans, easy borrowing, and, of course, easy mortgages.

The student loan debt has hit a staggering $1.53 trillion in the second quarter of 2018 (Hiptoro). According to the New York Federal Reserve, Americans owe $13.86 trillion in household debt (mortgages, student loans, auto loans, and credit cards, marketplace.org). Global debt surged to a record $250 trillion in the first half of 2019 (cnbc).



Many people buy all kinds of goods and services compulsively to fill their internal emptiness, to feel more complete, and less alone. Then, they realise that they don’t need so much stuff, that money doesn’t buy you happiness or love. They are neither happier, more attractive nor more popular after their purchases.



It is important to note that we are not referring to those who shop as a distraction or want to treat themselves from time to time. We are talking about impulsive behavior. People who cannot avoid buying. They cannot resist offers and buying the latest hot gadget or gizmo. Those who buy things when they feel lonely, angry, sad, or stressed out, and run to shops and malls to make themselves feel better, to forget about the problems and difficulties in their lives. Typically, soon after their purchases, they feel guilty, disappointed, sad, and ashamed of what they have done. They have very low self-esteem because of their lack of control in the acquisition of unnecessary items.



The typical profile of a compulsive shopper is a woman in her thirties or forties who buys clothing, jewelry, shoes, and beauty products. Men look for electrical goods, digital gadgets, and tools. This disorder can be found in 5.8% of the United States population. However, the most significant characteristics are the adoption of an absolutely unsustainable and irresponsible consumer lifestyle and an unbridled accumulation of debt.

One of the most devastating effects is the impact on personal and family well-being and relationships. In order to “feed the beast”, many people work longer and harder, and therefore, they increase their anxiety and stress while their interpersonal and romantic relationships suffer. As a result, people experience feelings of low self-esteem, sadness, emptiness, and depression. These negative feelings push them even further into buying more things to make themselves feel better, which is clearly a self-destructive cycle. At later stages, personal and romantic relationship breakdowns can be found, as well as extreme levels of stress and debt and, in some cases, bankruptcy, embezzlement, and theft.

How can we stop being a compulsive buyer?

  1. Recognise that you have a serious problem, for example by writing down all your expenses for a month.
  2. Seek help from your family, your loved ones, good friends, and, in more extreme cases, a behavioural specialist or a psychologist.
  3. Identify and treat underlying issues: loneliness, low self-esteem, insecurity, anxiety, stress, depression, etc.
  4. Control your personal and family expenditures, especially pocket money. Avoid bargains, discounts, tricky deals, and promotions. If something is too good to be true, you can bet it’s not. Do not pay with credit cards and debit cards for small purchases, but rather use cash to control your spending.
  5. Learn to identify and recognise what is necessary and what is superfluous.
  6. Replace the “buy now” approach with searching and comparing prices and product features. Read online reviews and comments. However, be aware of fake reviews and other scams and spend some hours reading the real customer reviews.
  7. Before you go shopping, make a list and stick to it.
  8. Don’t buy anything on your own.
  9. Avoid shopping especially when you feel blue and have some difficult moments. For example, go out with your friends, do sports and outdoor activities, visit some relatives and friends, etc.
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