Dear Patricia Marie,

I am a shopaholic and I don’t know how to stop.  I love designer clothes and keep going on the internet and ordering items without any regard for how I am going to pay for them.  I just put everything on my credit card, and when that reaches its limit I apply for a different card.  Getting credit is so easy that up to now I haven’t even considered the implications of owing so much money.  My wardrobes are full.  I have boxes and bags of mostly unworn clothes all around my house, and yet I crave more. Having all those high quality items just waiting for me to wear them, makes me feel happy and successful, although actually I am quite lonely and just work as a doctor’s receptionist.

Lately I have been thinking about moving out of my rented accommodation and buying my own house, and I realise I may well not be able to get a mortgage. I am scared to add up the total of all my cards, but imagine it must be well over fifteen thousand pounds.

I would really appreciate any advice you could give me.

Patricia Marie says...

Firstly, I commend you for being honest with yourself by recognising your spending is spiralling out of control. The traits you display are typical of a person suffering from shopping addiction. Once you gain a better understanding of your behaviour, you will be in a better position to take control of your addiction. Shopaholics often have escalating debts, stopping at nothing until matters are taken out of their own hands.  Compulsive spending often results in not just serious financial issues, but marriage or relationship problems can occur, often leading to depression for the sufferer.  

Your spending has created the comfort you desire - filling a void in your life. While the underlying motive behind each compulsive shopper may be different, the euphoric feeling achieved when making purchases is universal. Just like chemical addiction, the addict experiences a sensation when making a purchase, likened to the rush of a drug, achieving a 'high feeling'.

As with other addictions, it is necessary to get to the root of the problem. Like yourself, often plagued by feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, shopaholics may also suffer low self-esteem. You clearly undermine the position you hold at your place of work, and to improve your self-worth you need to be aware of your positive attributes.

Depression as a result of taking shopping away is classed as withdrawal, a characteristic of every addiction. With all addiction treatment, honesty and acceptance about one's self is key. Taking responsibility of your declining financial situation would be a huge part of your recovery process in fighting this addiction. Confronting your creditors would be a good place to start as they could offer you a debt management plan. In addition, do visit your G.P, who can offer a health check and arrange some counselling where you would be able to explore the emotional issues causing your addictive behaviour, and assist you in moving forward to a more positive way of being.

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