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You bought what? Retail Therapy or Shopaholic

One day you look up and your closet is filled with endless stuff. Not only your closet but also the spare closet, the garage, and the She-shed too. How did this happen? And really you can't remember. A sporadic trip to the mall a few times after a stressful workday. Mindless scrolling on Amazon. Ad on TV, mobile, or tablet advertising an upcoming sale all items 50% off. Taking a peek at Wish after a friend's post on social media. Now you have no closet space, credit card statements you avoid opening, credit maximum reached on both Afterpay and Klarna, and your loved ones are giving you that look again whenever a shopping bag or new delivery arrives at the door. It's just a little retail therapy you say. But is it?

Oniomania. You probably have never heard of it but, basically, it is compulsive shopping or shopping addiction. In popular culture you have heard it referred to as, "being a shopaholic." It isn't uncommon to hear someone say after a stressful event, "I just need a little retail therapy." Say someone shops every day or several times per week. Would that meet criteria for problematic shopping or shopping addiction? Not exactly. Shopping in a healthy non-problematic manner such as regularly purchasing food, household goods, gas, or other essential items would not be considered as oniomania. But how to know the difference?

According to Shopaholics Anonymous, there are different types of shopaholics or compulsive spenders which include:

  • Compulsive shoppers: These shoppers buy on impulse. Any strong emotion sends them to the store for relief. The action of buying something relieves the compulsion to shop.

  • Trophy shoppers: Trophy shoppers seek just the right item to make themselves feel better. They keep shopping to find the “perfect” item to complete themselves.

  • Bargain hunters: These compulsive shoppers keep buying “bargains,” whether they need the item or not. Huge sale on diapers? They buy a carton, even though their youngest child is in college. Bargain hunters get a thrill from chasing down the ultimate bargain.

  • Collectors: These shopaholics compulsively buy trinkets, collectibles or other items, but they must have a complete set of whatever they love. They won’t stop until their collection is complete, but the definition of “complete” keeps changing and expanding.

  • Codependent shoppers: Codependence means seeking love, attention or affection from others without regard to oneself or one’s boundaries. These buy presents to seek the attention of others.

  • Bulimic shoppers: Like people with eating disorders who vomit excess food after a binge, bulimic shoppers binge shop, then return the items later. It’s the act of shopping that turns them on rather than keeping the items they’ve purchased.

This is all interesting information you may say. But I tried looking it up and I don't even see this listed as a diagnosable disorder. Well, that is true. It isn't. Although oniomania has not been formally recognized as a mental health disorder in the World Health Organization (WHO, 2018) publication International Classification of Diseases (ICD) or by the American Psychiatric Assocation (APA, 2018) publication Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), experts in behavioral addictions have recognized that our shopping behaviors can quickly and easily become an addiction that lead to physical, occupational, social, and psychological problems. So much so, that research is currently ongoing and data is being collected to determine whether Compulsive Buying Disorder will make its way into the next version of the DSM in its rightful place next to other behavioral addictions such as Gambling Disorder.

Even though oniomania is not a formal DSM-5 mental health diagnosis, we can see the clear connection of problem shopping with other diagnosable disorders. When we have financial problems, it can lead to stress. This emotional tension tied to money can lead to disruptions in our daily lives, reduces our ability to focus or enjoy life, and can lead to worry. This worry can begin to take a toll on our mental and physical health, our relationships, and can impact our quality of life. We can begin to see weight loss or gain, insomnia, social withdrawal, and physical ailments. Continuing and severe excessive worry can lead to increased negative mental health to include depression and/or anxiety. We cannot ignore the financial strain problem shopping can cause.

Just from the list provided above, it may be difficult to tell if you may be headed toward problem shopping. Afterall, many of us adore shopping and may even spend too much money while doing it. A shopping spree every once in a while, doesn't a shopping addict make. However, there are some warning signs that you may want to look for. Interested in learning more?

I made a commitment to my readers in my article, "New Year, New Intention" that I would make myself more available through the offering of informational group sessions to increase our sense of community by increasing support among site members and increasing shared accountability for setting and reaching goals. It is with this spirit in mind that a new class has been added to the Growing Together Master Classes tab of the book online section on the website. The class is entitled: "Retail Therapy or Shopping Addiction." During this informational group session we will take inventory of our spending profile, identify primary motivations for our shopping behaviors, and identify alternative behaviors and mindsets to employ. Spaces are limited and only one session is being offered; it is scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2023, at 2:00pm CST. I hope you will join me.

As always, I appreciate your readership and would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below which other wellness topics you might want to see featured either in a blog article or an informational group session. As I close this article, please remember that wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!

"It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which bring one happiness." ~Thomas Jefferson

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