SIGNS OF TROUBLE AHEAD
If you answer yes to any one of these questions, you owe it to yourself to take stock of your shopping and spending habits.
Do you often go on buying binges?
Do you find yourself spending more time or money or both than you want to buying on the Internet, in catalogs or on the shopping channels?
Do you go shopping because you want to make yourself feel better?
Do you shop to avoid doing something else in your life?
Do you go on buying binges when you're lonely, anxious, disappointed, depressed or angry?
Do you feel euphoric when you go on a buying binge?
Do you feel anxious, guilty or ashamed after you go on a buying binge?
Do you buy things even though you don't need them or can't afford them?
Do you find yourself making more and more use of credit, acquiring more cards, increasing your credit limit?
Have any of your purchases ever resulted in problems with your bank or legal problems?
Are your relationships with family and friends suffering because of your buying?
Has your job performance been suffering because of your buying?
Do you hide your purchases and shopping trips from family or friends?
Are you not opening your mail or answering your phone because you don't want to face the consequences of your buying?
Psychotropic medications, including antidepressants and mood stabilizers, have been used to treat compulsive buying with varying effectiveness. The makers of Celexa sponsored a Stanford University study on the effectiveness of antidepressants in treating compulsive shopping. "Medications of this family appear to be effective for a majority of people with this problem," said Dr. Lorrin Koran. Traditional individual psychotherapy to treat an underlying disorder or counseling for compulsive buying that targets the specific problem and creates an action plan to stop the behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy also may also work, Dr. Koran said.
Couples therapy can be helpful because couples tend to act as a financial unit and mingle funds. Money issues are often a source of intense and pervasive friction that can seep into other aspects of the relationship. It is usually recommended when the problem can't be dealt with in individual therapy.
Group therapy through Debtors Anonymous, which views indebtedness as a disease similar to alcoholism that can be kept at bay through a 12-step program, can be a powerful tool in recovery from compulsive buying especially for people who have financial problems. Simplicity circles can be a helpful support to compulsive buyers by offering a forum to discuss with others living a simpler, more fulfilling life. Most compulsive shoppers also need specific tools for changing behavior including a shopping diary and a spending plan.