Oniomania is a medical term (from Greek onios = "for sale," mania = insanity) coined by German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, for the compulsive desire to shop, more commonly referred to as shopping addiction or shopaholism. It is not recognized as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) manual DSM-IV; however, that may change as more is learned about the brain chemistry of compulsive behavior . Kraepplin, along with Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, first identified the symptoms associated with oniomania during the late nineteenth century. Oniomania has received increased media attention despite the fact that it does not meet the criteria under the DSM-IV.
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.Oniomania is still being studied by psychologists throughout the world, and, in fact, the APA is in the process of possibly including it in the DSM-IV.
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 either regretful 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.
The consequences of oniomania, which may persist long after a spree, can be devastating. They may include over-indebtedness, theft or defalcation of money, defaulted loans, and general financial trouble. Sufferers often come into conflict with the law.