Some may laugh at the thought of having a “shopping addiction.” Some may make light of people maxing out their credit cards on the latest brands and foregoing real life for material obsessions. However, the reality of the situation is: a shopping addiction can result in an illness known as oniomania.
“Our society deems material goods as important,” says Valley psychiatrist Michael Yasinski. “People believe that the more they buy, the happier they will be.”
And, with so many different outlets for shopping, including online shopping sites like Groupon that offer special deals, it’s difficult to avoid.
“There’s no shortage of easy ways to obtain options,” Yasinski says. “People can lose relationships, become isolated and lose emotional connection.”
Yasinski adds that the addiction can stem from problems in one’s past. He says often sees patients that have had emotional problems in their childhood or have experienced neglect.
“Eighty percent of the time, it goes back to early life,” Yasinski says. “The first step is making sure there are no underlying, treatable illnesses like bipolar disease or depression.”
One visible sign of oniomania is a financially unstable family. The family is usually called in and analyzed to decide whether the patient has the disease.
“Patients will get to a point where it’s taking a toll on their family,” Yasinski says. “They can’t concentrate at work or take their kids to soccer practice.”
The biggest deciding factor in determining whether on has onomania is impairment of functionality.
“If people are in debt, ruining relationships or staying up all hours of the night shopping online, it is a functional issue,” Yasinski says.
People may think that this is something that can simply be stopped by not going into stores and staying away from websites,” says former shopaholic Nikki Patrie. “However, it’s a lot more complicated than that. It was like Christmas when the packages came.
Patrie maxed out an $8,000 credit card in one week buying mostly shoes, jewelry and designer clothing. She admits that she just couldn’t help herself. Now $20,000 in debt, Patrie is seeing a therapist to turn her life around.
“Consequences of shopaholic addiction are often worse than those of drugs or alcohol,” Yasinski says.
The first step in stopping is to realize that there is a problem and personally want to fix it.
“People should know that there are several treatment options for the addiction and that it is easy to get help if they truly desire it,” Yasinski says.