What’s spending addiction?

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Spending addiction, or oniomania, is a real addiction that can negatively impact quality of life. It often leads to overwhelming debt and can harm relationships. It is linked to poor self-image and can be treated with medication, financial advisors, and counseling.

A spending addiction, also known as oniomania, is characterized by an intense desire to buy things, or even just a constant obsession with shopping, whether or not the purchases are made. People with such desires tend to shop compulsively, often for things that are utterly useless and may never be used. Compulsive shoppers may also purchase things that are not for their own use, but are bought as gifts for others. Spending addiction is viewed by the medical community as a very real type of addiction that can have a severely negative impact on quality of life.

For many, spending addiction is inextricably linked to troubled finances. Compulsive shoppers often rack up an overwhelming amount of debt to support their addiction. There are others, however, who are wealthy enough to have a spending addiction without making a financial mess. Even for those individuals, a spending addiction can be a heavy emotional and mental burden that is driven by a variety of unhealthy factors, such as low self-esteem or a reliance on spending to feel happy. It’s not that different from someone who binge eats when feeling depressed.

A severe spending addiction can not only leave a person financially under water, but it can also financially jeopardize relationships with spouses or other loved ones. Compulsive shoppers have been known to try to hide their bad spending habits from their families out of shame. This, however, only makes the problems worse; the more you manage to hide your habit, the worse it gets, which only leads to a greater financial and emotional toll on all parties involved.

Spending addiction often begins as a combination of unruly spending habits, aided by easy access to credit and a culture that encourages shopping, and poor self-image. If the expense becomes so severe that it bankrupts a family, derails a marriage, or causes some other catastrophic life event, the addicted individual may experience such great shame and depression that he entertains thoughts of suicide. That kind of power to seriously harm lives is a major reason expense addiction is taken so seriously by medical professionals.

There are several methods of dealing with spending addiction. Many people are prescribed antidepressant medications to help them cope with feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem and guilt. Financial advisors can be hired to help resolve spending and debt problems. In family situations, a marriage counselor might also be recommended to help reconcile spouses who are having trust issues and feeling separated by a financial rift.

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