What Is Spending Addiction?

Compulsive shoppers may frequently purchase clothes.
The intense desire to buy things is called oniomania.
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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2014
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A spending addiction, also known as oniomania, is characterized by the intense desire to buy things, or even just a constant obsessing over shopping regardless of whether purchases are made. People with such desires tend to shop compulsively, often for things that are absolutely unnecessary and which may never be used. Compulsive shoppers may also buy things which aren't for their own personal use, but which are bought as gifts for others. Spending addiction is considered by the medical community to be a very real kind of addiction that can have a severely negative impact on one's quality of life.

For many, a spending addiction is inextricably tied to troubled finances. Compulsive shoppers will often rack up a crushing amount of debt to sustain their addiction. There are others, however, who are wealthy enough to have a spending addiction without creating a financial mess. Even for those individuals, an addiction to spending can be a heavy emotional and mental burden that's driven by a variety of unhealthy factors, such as low self-esteem or a dependency on spending to feel happy. This isn't all that unlike one who eats compulsively when feeling depressed.


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

Spending addiction often begins as combination of undisciplined spending habits—aided by easy access to credit and a culture that encourages shopping—and poor self-image. If spending gets bad enough to bankrupt a family, derail a marriage, or cause some other catastrophic life event, the addicted individual might feel such great shame and depression as to entertain thoughts of suicide. That kind of power to greatly harm lives is a major reason why spending addiction is taken so seriously by medical professionals.

There are multiple methods to treating spending addiction. Many people are prescribed anti-depressant medications, to help them cope with feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and guilt. Financial consultants may be brought in to help sort out spending and debt problems. In family situations, a marital counselor might also be recommended to help reconcile spouses who have trust issues and feel separated by a financial rift.


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