Also known as ‘oniomania’, compulsive buying is a difficult addiction to spot because we live in a society that encourages us to consume and chase after the next must-have purchase. Compulsive spenders cannot control the urge to buy or to go on spending sprees, despite an overwhelming burden of debt or financial crisis. Compulsive shopping has little or nothing to do with the specific objects purchased, often as gifts. The shoppers feel completely ruled by the compulsion to ‘shop and spend’ continually, acting against their own better judgement and making purchases that they ignore or regret afterward. The individual motives are regarded as psychological and emotional, for some being a ritual assurance of love and self-worth, for others offering an escape from loneliness, despair or boredom, or a way to avoid confronting negative or uncomfortable feelings such as sadness, boredom, stress and anxiety. The contextual causes of this social epidemic and "cultural addiction" lies in the combination of an increasingly powerful consumer culture and easy credit. The time and emotional stress involved in online searching, social media scrolling, visiting shops, juggling credit card bills, hiding purchases from family and returning goods can cause severe disruption to everyday life. This serious form of addiction can lead to debt, dysfunctional family life, neglected or over-indulged children.
About 6% of citizens in the USA are compulsive spenders. The problem is more common among women than men, but cuts across all income levels. An average of 40% of household income after mortgage or rent goes to pay for past purchases, as against 22% for the general population. About 53% of grocery and 47% of hardware-store purchases in the USA are spur-of-the-moment. Store-hopping is the favourite activity for 93% of American teenage girls. A survey of Britons also provided a segment of 6 percent compulsive shoppers, 90 percent of them women. Given the choice between getting a job promotion, a holiday, falling in love, losing six kilogram in weight or having £2,000 to spend on clothes, more of 1000 readers of a women's magazine said they would choose shopping above any of the others. 83 percent said they have shopped for a psychological boost and one quarter that they did it regularly.