I recently did a TV segment on overspending and brought with me a client who had over $200,000 of debt. Although she worked full-time and made a decent living, she had accumulated, in a ten-year period, approximately $200,000 worth of credit card debt due to compulsive spending.

Her family had little knowledge of her exorbitant spending, although her husband was suspicious and inquired weekly about her bills. The couple had dealt with this issue over a decade prior and he had cleaned up her debt as a result. She had promised, in all sincerity, not to use her credit cards again. However due to a poor recovery plan she relapsed and started using her credit cards again.

Unfortunately, in her recovery plan she had not developed the infrastructure to access enough support. As a result, she soon relapsed into old behaviors and within months was back to hiding, sneaking, and lying about her expenditures. During this period, she was in denial and she was also fooling herself, believing that her spending was controlled and would not become excessive.

This woman had set up her life to avoid being discovered. She had an unpublished phone number, and had spent hours figuring out the absolute minimum to pay to keep creditors from knocking on her door. Her husband, us, was also in denial and really didn’t want to know the full extent of her debt due to the major financial repercussions for him.

As you might imagine, this couple had major relationship issues including emotional estrangement. They had very little in common except for their children and had chronic intimacy issues. They really operated as separate entities.

It was imperative that she come clean with her family and divulge her secret, even if it resulted in her husband leaving her. She worked at getting honest so she could start a recovery program that provided her the inherent support to manage this addiction.

SHOPAHOLISM is viewed as a habit disorder or an addiction. It:

  • Produces a euphoric high that temporarily makes a person feel good.
  • Distracts the person from the boredom of everyday life.
  • Provides a substitute for unmet emotional needs.
  • Can be a tool to “get back at” or “get even with” a nonsupportive family member.
  • Is auto-exacerbating in that it produces the euphoric high and yet at the same time results in guilt and shame, which typically medicated by more overspending.
  • To learn how to manage this disorder you can access the following resources.

Call Debtors Anonymous (781-453-2743) and they can give you a list of online and local groups. Momentive Consumer Credit is a not-for-profit group can be reached at 1-888-711-7227. They can provide consumers with financial, individual and group support. You can call Indianapolis Psychiatric Associates (317-329-7313 and ask for Tanya) to sign up for a Cognitive Behavioral Group that will help you with this habit disorder. Talk with your doctor, about medications that, for some people, can curb” some” of the cravings.

Never before have there been so many opportunities to overspend! It is imperative that you break through the denial and seek professional help. This is not only a habit disorder, but it is an emotional and behavioral problem that will not get better on its own. There may be consequences that occur when you begin to deal with this problem, however once you become honest with yourself you can develop substitutes that are healthier and that build your self-esteem, as opposed to tearing it down.

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