Facebook Pixel

Compulsive Shopping – The Closeted Addiction

Rate This
Shopping Addiction related image

You’ve heard the term before. “Shopaholic.” The reference is usually to someone always on the hunt for a new item, a bargain, or the quest to have the latest and the best. But oniomania—the clinical term for this behavior—is no joke. One in 12 people in the United States struggle with this disorder. Of those affected, 80-90 percent are women.

In her new book, Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict, author Avis Cardella chronicles the years she battled her compulsion to fill her emotional void with shopping forays that ranged from purchasing top of the line luxury items to second-rate knock-offs.

Raised in a blue-collar working family, Cardella was impacted as a young girl by her mother’s distinctive style of dress. She became entranced with fashion magazines in her formative teen years.

The underlying cause that Cardella points to early in her narrative, as the catalyst for the obsession that would slowly take over her life, was the trauma of her mother’s death. In her opening sentence she wrote, “I used shopping to avoid myself.”

Cardella alternately describes her purchasing junkets as her escape, her boyfriend, her release, her therapy, and her drug. She came out of the fashion world—where she modeled briefly, was a photographer’s assistant, and then became a freelance writer. Throughout Spent, she lingers over descriptions of buttery suedes and designer creations cut from “dark blue lightweight gabardine wool.” Some readers may not be able to connect with her New York City lifestyle. However, they will certainly recognize her underlying desire to please others, her co-dependence on men, and her constant striving to replenish herself with another person’s love and approval.

In retrospect, Cardella realizes that she neglected to fully mourn her mother’s death.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Thanks Jill for sharing your thoughts. There has been conversation about having oniomania added into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I hope that others reading the article who have this problem will see that they are not alone, and seek help.


August 5, 2010 - 8:34pm

I'm really not Anonymous - became a member of this site after submitting that comment!

August 4, 2010 - 4:26pm
EmpowHER Guest

Marcia, thank you for an insightful piece on shopping addiction and Avis' story. Whenever you put the word "shopping" out there, it can be easy for some people to dismiss it as light-weight or having a funny angle to it. For some of us, shopping figures heavily in our emotional and psychological lives, and to attempt to get to the root of that takes great courage and perseverence. As entertaining as movies like "Confesssions of a Shopapholic" are, there is a bigger story to it. And your article helped us to see that.

I so appreciated the length and depth of this piece. Many blog articles are short -- we're fearful our audience's attention span wont run to more than 350 words! - but your piece kept my attention the entire way through.

I have been on my own journey, to explore the roots of my relationship to shopping. I started a year without clothes shopping on December 15, 2009, and have been blogging a few times a week about my experiences.

What started as a hobby/personal challenge has turned into something more, as I've been asked if I would be able to support and inspire others who want to take a year out from clothes shopping, but they don't want to have an austere "doing without" year. www.shopyourwardrobe.com was born.

Thanks again Marcia. An insightful and sensitive piece. Bravo.

August 4, 2010 - 4:22pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Shopping Addiction

Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!