"Anybody who says money can't buy you happiness
doesn't know where to shop."-Joan Collins

Compulsive shopping disorder, also known as oniomania, is the undisciplined zest to acquire all kinds of possessions, especially the unneeded and the unaffordable.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are more than 15 million "oniomaniacs" in the US. Between 80 to 95% of those affected are female. Men are often characterized as "collectors" and women as shopaholics.

One example of shopaholism is the case of Antoinette Millard. Millard, the daughter of a steelworker, passed herself off in Manhattan as a Saudi Princess who converted to Judaism. Millard purchased jewels as though they were peppermint patties, and hung out with New York's high society. In three months, she spent over one million dollars on her no limit American Express Centurion card. In 2004, Millard became the center of media attention in New York when she alleged that she had been mugged and robbed of her insured jewelry worth a quarter of a million dollars. She had insured her purchases, and then reported them stolen, hoping to cash in on the insurance proceeds. Millard was arrested and committed to a mental institution for her uncontrollable shopping addiction.

Notable people who are or have been compulsive shoppers include:
Imelda Marcos of the Philippines, the quintessential shopaholic, although she could be better known as a "shoeaholic." After the Marcos family fled Malacañang Palace, Imelda was found to own 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, 300 bras, one of which was bullet-proof, and 1060 pairs of shoes
Elton John, famous for his legendary spending sprees, reportedly spent $850,000 on a single day's shopping fling. He once spent $200,000 on flowers. Asked why, he replied, "Well, I like flowers."
Marie Antoinette's spending binges fueled the rage that sparked the French Revolution.
Mary Todd Lincoln spent greater amounts on clothes then any other First Lady. She bought three hundred pairs of lace gloves in four months leaving the Lincoln family in enormous debt.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Diana were notorious for their clothing addictions.
Britney Spears shops when she's depressed.
Victoria Beckham, a former Spice Girl, is believed to spend $200,000 a year on her wardrobe, and has turned shopping into her main occupation. "I can't help it," she says. "When I see something I like, I buy it in every color and I buy shoes in every color to match, as well as handbags. If I could, I'd go shopping every single day. I'm definitely a shopaholic."

In rare cases, dopamine agonists, those that are being used in the treatment of disorders such as Parkinsonism and restless legs syndrome, can cause compulsive behavior, such as an uncontrollable desire to shop. Some of these brand-name medications are: Ambien, Apokyn, Dostinex, Mirapex, Neupro, Parlodel, Permax, and Requip

About the Author

Jerome Litt, M.D.

Jerome Litt, M.D. is Assistant Clinical Professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

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