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Retail Therapy or Shopping Disorder?

DISCLAIMER: Though this article is using a light-hearted tone about this issue, keep in mind Oniomania can lead to real life problems and is, in most cases, devastating for the person suffering. It leads to financial and personal problems and then can lead to more addictions like alcoholism or drug abuse. So, if you or someone you know might be suffering from CBD seek professional help.


Jahnavi Maurya


Do you relate with Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City when she says, “I have spent 40,000 dollars on shoes, and I don’t have a house to live in”? If yes, then you might have Compulsive buying disorder.


Imagine yourself in a scenario, you are walking down the street, minding your own business and a cute shinny thing catches your eye. It is magnificent, it is exquisite, it is the cute purse from the new seasonal line of your favorite brand.


Question: What do you do in that scenario?

Answer: You buy the purse, of course, that is the only option.


If this is your answer, then you might have Oniomania.

As scary as the word may sound, it is basically a fancy term for describing ‘Shopaholics’. Now, that is a term you may be familiar with. It is made famous by romcom movies like “Confessions of a Shopaholic”, where our protagonist makes this addiction come off as a quirk that ultimately helps her land a guy. But this is not a movie review so let us not get into that. Compulsive buying disorder (CBD) or oniomania is described by the World Psychiatry journal as “excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment”, which translates to, people with CBD buy things without rational thinking which then leads to problems like debts and mental stress about those debts. This mental stress then leads to more buying, more debts, more stress and so on. It is a viscous cycle of excess expenditure without excess revenue.


Dr. Bandana Gupta, an assistant Professor in Department of Psychiatry at King George’s Medical University says “Oniomania is a word that is made famous, but we do not use it. We call it Compulsive buying disorder … so, CBD can be characterized under the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The urge to shop can be deafening for people suffering from CBD. Questions like, ‘do they have enough money?’, ‘do they need this item?’, are practically non-existent when the compulsion sets in.” According to most sources CBD is considered to be a “primarily a female problem”, though the world psychiatry journal disagrees and says, “Most subjects studied clinically are women (~80%), though this gender difference may be artifactual”. Spooked yet?


Ask yourself these questions,

- Do you just like the act of shopping rather than the things that you shop? According to research people with CBD like to conceal their purchases which result in having a lot of unopened items in their closet.

- Have you experienced “shopper’s high”? Research says that compulsive buyers get into a euphoric state while shopping.

- Do you shop to get rid of negative emotions? People with CBD usually use shopping to temporarily escape their feelings like loneliness, lack of control or lack of self-esteem.

- Do you feel guilty about your purchases? CBD patients will not usually reflect on their purchases but when they do, they feel remorse which send them back into the cycle of buying more things.

- Do you hide things that you buy from your loved one? Compulsive buyers tend to hide their purchases from their loved ones because they fear that they may be called out for their problem.


If you have answered in favor of most these questions, you may want to reflect and seek help if needed. Dr. Gupta said, “There is no specific cure or treatment for it. Each case needs a different thing. Talking therapy works best and there is medication that can help, but mostly, it comes to the individual and how they respond to these methods.”


So, in the words of Rebecca Bloomwood, a character from Confessions of a Shopaholic, if your heart “goes like warm butter sliding down a hot toast” after seeing a store, you should probably examine your impulses.


Edited by Stuti Kohli & Palak Malhotra

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