Symptoms: Paleness, rise in blood pressure, shaking, confusion, anxiety.

Diagnosis: You’ve just received your credit card bill.

Prognosis: Hopeful, but only with immediate intervention.

Prescription: 50% dose of Discipline, 50% dose of Professional Help (e.g. financial adviser, therapist). To be taken in conjunction with surgical removal of credit card from your hand.

Wallets become a little slimmer after the holidays and most people become a little more disciplined about their finances. It’s normal to dish out extra monetary joy during the holidays, but for some, this isn’t just a festive habit. People who suffer from “Oniomania,” otherwise known as compulsive shopping/spending (rather than an addiction to onions, as the term may suggest), have a great deal of difficulty ignoring the lure of the bright red “50% OFF” signs, the smell of new merchandise, and the rush that comes with swiping their credit card.

After collecting data from over 14,000 test-takers from all walks of life, our statistics reveal that in general, most people are fairly self-controlled buyers. In essence, while we do get a bit of a thrill from shopping, we are still reasonably good at managing our finances (average score of 61 on a scale from 0 to 100), we are not fashion “slaves” to an excessive degree (score of 52), and we generally don’t get into arguments with loved ones about our shopping habits (score of 23). Although we do tend to turn to shopping as a form of therapy when upset (score of 62) and tend to get a bit of an adrenaline rush when we shop (score of 54), we are generally fairly disciplined shoppers.

So what’s the problem? When we compared men and women’s results on the Shopaholic Test, some interesting information was revealed.

According to our data, women are more likely to be shopaholics, but not to an extreme degree. Yes, women’s love for shopping is a long-standing joke, but I think that part of this stigma has to do with the fact that they are more likely to be the ones in the household to do the majority of the shopping. (FYI – I absolutely detest shopping. I’m probably one of few women who can say that).

Overall, women outscored men 48 to 36 on the shopaholism scale. Our study reveals that men tend to be better at managing their money (score of 67 for men vs. 59 for women), better able to control their shopping urges (score of 64 for men vs. 57 for women), and less likely to feel an obsessive need to get all the latest fashions, be it clothes or gadgets (score of 44 for men vs. 55 for women). The most noteworthy score difference, however, relates to the concept of “Retail Therapy.” Women are much more likely to use shopping as a form of catharsis, and to use the endorphin boost to get through a tough week (score of 66 for women, 43 for men). The problem is, this feeling of elation is short-lived. Those new pair of shoes or that Michael Kors purse may look great initially, but once the adrenaline rush of buying them wears off, it’s replaced by negative feelings like guilt. Queendom’s data also reveals that older age groups (40+) are better than younger people at managing their money and controlling their impulses, are less likely to use shopping to feel better, and are not as concerned as younger people about staying on top of the latest fashions.

While some experts may still raise an eyebrow when considering whether Shopaholism/Oniomania should be considered an official impulse control disorder, our study is pretty telling. For instance, 2% of our test-takers have consulted a mental health professional about their buying habits, while another 7% are considering doing so. Granted, our sample likely suffers from a bit of self-selection bias (those who feel they might have a problem are more likely to take the test), but some of our study results are a concern. For instance:

  • Those who own more than three credit cards are much more likely than those who own only one to have difficulties managing their money and to use shopping to feel better. They are also more likely to have trouble with impulse control.
  • 5% have “borrowed” credit cards from friends or family members to shop, without the card owner knowing it.
  • 9% can’t afford to pay for basic expenses (e.g. food, bills) because of their excessive shopping.
  • 24% have shopping on their mind nearly all the time.
  • 25% can’t leave a store without buying something.
  • 26% shop even when they can’t afford to.
  • 32% can’t control themselves when they have an urge to shop.
  • 37% hide their purchases from loved ones.
  • 40% feel guilty about their purchases.
  • 49% get an adrenaline rush when they shop.
  • 52% shop when feeling angry or depressed.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D