Impulse shoppers often buy things they don’t need. *MCT illustration
Impulse shoppers often buy things they don’t need. *MCT illustration

Have you ever heard of oniomania? 

Oniomania is a psychiatric term for compulsive shopping, or shopping addiction. 

People with this ‘addiction’ have an uncontrollable desire to buy things — the urge to shop ‘til you drop. 

Many of the psychological characteristics of oniomania, more commonly referred to as compulsive shopping, are identical to those of chemical dependency. 

So how do you describe a compulsive shopper (oniomaniac)?

 For starters, they spend more than they can afford. They shop to get an emotional lift. 

They tend to max out their credit cards, they neglect their bills, hide their purchases, hide from debt collectors and some tend to have a steady stream of packages arriving in the mail from shopping on-line.

They buy things they do not need and do not use. They have lots of items with the tags still on. This shopping, as compulsive and out-of-control as it is, provides the shopper with an adrenaline rush, a buzz, in the first instance. However, after a round of binge shopping they frequently experience ‘buyer’s remorse’ — they feel guilt, shame and anxiety about how they will pay their bills. 

Compulsive shoppers also tend to lie about their shopping and if possible they will take a second job to accommodate this compulsion. 

Compulsive shopping can be a threat to one’s mental, emotional and financial health. If you think you are a compulsive shopper or even if you are concerned that you shop too much, there are a few steps you can take to get control of your spending.

Do your research

Go on the Internet and read up on emotional spending, over-spending and oniomania. Take the time to evaluate your shopping habits and spending. Determine whether or not you’re in need of professional help, if you are a shopaholic, or you may just need to push back, shop less and save more.

Consider alternatives

Instead of shopping, or browsing internet stores during your free time, find an alternative. Go for a walk in the park, do not take any cash and avoid your favourite shopping sites. Meditate, do some yoga or some sort of exercise that you enjoy. Call or visit a friend (one who is not a shopaholic). Read a book or a magazine. 

Avoid impulse buying

Impulse shopping is very common and it is a huge budget buster. You should take every precaution to avoid buying on impulse. Only carry the cash you know you will need to purchase what you need (not what you want). Leave the credit and debit cards at home. 

If you get the sudden urge to purchase an item ask yourself  “Did I plan to buy this”? Walk away and give yourself 24 hours to decide if you need it and can afford it. 

Shopping can be fun but buying more stuff and spending frivolously does not make you happy. Ask yourself — what kind of shopper am I? 

Am I buying what I need or wasting money on stuff that I want? Am I living beyond my means? Is my spending adding significant value to my life?

Focus on spending less and saving more. Take control of your spending habits before they take control of you.

At Consumer Affairs, we offer guidance to consumers, businesses and other organizations. Before contacting us, we recommend that you first visit our web-site, and read the relevant information. If you are unable to find the information you require on our web-site, please e-mail us at

Honey Adams Bell is the education officer for Consumer Affairs.