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Shopping Sprees Can Cost More Than You Think: How to Identify a Shopping Addiction

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- While shopping is usually viewed as a leisure activity by the general public, for one shopper in twenty, the habit is a process addiction. For these "shopaholics," trips to the mall are more than holiday buying and trying on new work clothes. Rather, their "retail therapy" is an expensive habit that can spiral into financial and emotional disaster.

"Addiction is a complex behavior," said Dr. Stephen Grinstead (, licensed marriage and family therapist of CAMFT, "and most addictions fall in one of two categories: process or substance. Shopping addiction is a process addiction, similar to gambling, spending, eating, and sexual addictions that can have life-altering consequences."

Shopping addictions work like this: When one is feeling lonely, depressed, or stressed, s/he heads to a number of retailers. After compulsively buying at a number of stores, often on credit, guilt sets in and the compulsive shopper tucks away recently-purchased items under the bed or in the closet with the price tags still attached. This allows the shopper to return the items when reason later sets in. After repeated occurrences of this behavior, the shopper begins to see a detrimental affect on his/her finances, emotional health and relationships, both personal and professional.

So, how do you know if you have a shopping addiction?

-- Most of your shopping or spending occurs when you are feeling lonely,

angry or sad.

-- You feel lost without credit cards.

-- You're unable to pay off your credit card at the end of the month.

-- You frequently buy items on credit that you can't purchase with cash.

-- You find yourself "justifying" your purchases more often than not.

-- You hide your bills, receipts and purchases from your loved ones.

-- Your loved ones and close friends are concerned about the amount of

time and money you spend on shopping.

How do you stop shopping sprees?

-- Pay for purchases by cash or debit card.

-- Give your credit cards to a financially-responsible loved one for


-- Take a financially-responsible loved one with you on your shopping

trips to keep you accountable.

-- Make a shopping list before you leave the house and buy only items on

the list.

-- Plan alternative activities when you feel the urge to shop.

Admitting that you are addicted to shopping is the first step to recovery. Like any addiction (, there are treatment options to help identify what triggers your compulsive behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and twelve-step programs have been found to be beneficial toward recovery.

A Marriage and Family Therapist ( can also help you with a shopping addiction by exploring alternative ways to deal with life's everyday challenges. In addition, MFTs can help you identify and modify addictive behavioral patterns, mitigating the mental health symptoms related to your addiction. To learn more about the services offered by Marriage and Family Therapists or to locate a therapist, visit California's online mental health resource,


The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, with 27 chapters throughout the state, is an independent professional organization, representing the interests of licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. CAMFT provides as a resource to the public looking for Marriage and Family Therapists located in California. For more information about CAMFT, please call (858) 292-2638 or visit

SOURCE California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
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