Compulsive or pathological buying, or monomania, is a preoccupation with impulses to make purchases. The motivations are irresistible, intrusive, and senseless. The shopping behavior causes marked distress, interferes with social functioning and marriage, and often results in financial problems.
Signs that a person might have a shopping addiction include:
- Always thinking about things they plan to purchase
- Being unable to stop their compulsive shopping
- Experiencing a rush of euphoria after buying something
- Feeling regret or guilt about items soon after they have been purchased
- Financial problems or an inability to pay off debts
- Lying about things they have bought or hiding their purchases
- Opening new credit cards without paying off balances on existing cards
- Purchasing stuff they don’t need
- Shopping when they are stressed or sad
Those suffering from monomania often experience feeling elated after making a purchase. However, the thrill wears off once the shopper has taken the item home. Depression and a feeling of emptiness return. Suze Orman, psychologist and financial author of many books about finances, says, “Our emotions influence up to 80 percent of our financial decisions.” Therefore, it is no surprise that this compulsive shopping disorder would be interwoven with feelings and emotions.
What is the old joke, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping?” In actuality, the opposite is true. Compulsive is often a failed attempt to cope with emotions that cannot be tolerated.
Like people with addictions, the individual must get out and go to the stores and spend money on unnecessary items. Often, there is a risk of bankruptcy because the accumulated expenses become overwhelming, and the person cannot meet their bills.
In some ways, monomania is connected to hoarding. Purchases are repetitively made of items that the person already has. By and large, these things are stored and not used once they are home. For instance, many types of watches, pocketbooks, or shoes may be purchased. However, once home, they are put in the drawer or closet, along with all the other watches, never to be seen or worn again. Then, purchases can pile up, much like what happens with a hoarder. In this case, the whole emphasis is on shopping and buying. At the very same time, there is a tendency for the shopper to keep the purchases a secret from friends and family.
It has been found that 1% to 6% of the population suffers from this illness. Among those, 90% are female. The causes are not clear. Some experts believe the source of the problem lies in some form of neurological disorder. Other suggestions are that there may be a correlation between having been abused or unloved during childhood and developing this disorder.
While it may seem to loved ones that this destructive behavior is deliberate, it is not. This is an illness in which people are driven to shop and spend money.