Shopping is a necessary activity, and we all enjoy shopping. But there are also people who “shop till they drop”. They have a deeper problem with the buying syndrome known as oniomania, a term first coined by Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist in 1915 from the Greek verb ‘to buy’. Oniomanics have fantasies of grandiosity when buying and compulsively shop to experience feelings of being rich and respected. Some experts believe that the addiction is symptomatic of other problems such as bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder, others believe it is a distinct illness.
The American Psychological Association calls oniomania a form of self-medication against depression. The human mind craves the stimulation of new and different things, and shopping is an exhilarating experience for shopaholics. What experts believe is that you are shopping not because you need something, but because the very act of shopping itself makes you feel better and relaxed, so you become compelled to do so. The adrenaline rush, the fantasy which surrounds the episode, and everything which precedes the actual spending spree - all add to the sense of unreality which brings a false sense of freedom from life’s problems. It is thought that the act of shopping releases a chemical in the brain known as serotonin, which is closely involved in the control of mood (low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and other mood-related problems).
Shopping, in general, is still a woman’s pursuit and a culturally accepted norm, and shopaholics often, though not always, are women. Establishing a self-identity is a social phenomenon, and since possessions are viewed as an extension of oneself, women seem to consider possessions as symbolic of interpersonal integration and emotional attachment. Young women tend to express themselves through their clothing and jewelry and have an irresistible desire to acquire large amounts of items that would affect their appearance – i.e. cosmetics, jewelry, shoes, clothing, etc – suggesting that compulsive buyers are extremely conscious of their appearance. Compulsive buying develops in the late teens, although a decade passes before the victim realises the magnitude of the problem.
BUYING, WHICH OCCURRED IN RESPONSE TO THESE URGES, IS SEEN AS AN ATTEMPT TO NEUTRALISE THE ANXIETY AND DISCOMFORT EXPERIENCED BY THE SHOPAHOLIC.
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