Signs of a shop-a-holic

October 8, 2009 9:08:24 PM PDT
Many people are tightening their belts during the recession, but for some compulsive shoppers, it's much harder to curb spending. Psychologists say shopping addiction is a growing problem in America, affecting nearly 18 million people nationwide.

Signs of a true shop-a-holic:

"I didn't even realize how many I had in here," Stephanie Auteri said.

Bags and bags of clothing that Auteri doesn't wear showcase her addiction to shopping.

"It kills me to think how much money I would have if I hadn't purchased all of this," she said.

The on-line blogger admits she would buy things to portray a lifestyle she wanted, but couldn't afford.

It was a habit she hid from her husband.

"When I bought clothing I would keep them in the trunk, and then bring them up when he wasn't home and he would say, oh is that new, and I'd say oh I had it forever," she explained.

Two years ago, she fessed up when she was ten thousand dollars in debt, the fourth time she racked up that much on her cards.

Psychologists say compulsive shopping affects around 18 million people nationwide.

A consumer-driven society makes addiction signs -- like shopping to lift sprits or ignoring bills -- harder to detect.

"It's called the smiled upon addiction. Very often it's something people turn to for the same underlying reason that other people turn to eating, or not eating or alcohol or drugs. Often to fill-in a hole in the soul," Dr. April Benson, a compulsive buying psychologist, said.

The tight economy is making it harder for Auteri to pay off her debt, but she's in therapy and is now focusing on buying a house as a way to combat the spending urges she still struggles with.

"It's something I manage. I'm definitely a lot better at it," she said.

Experts say the recession is both hurting and helping people prone to compulsive shopping. They're finding some addicts are spending more, finding bargains too hard to resist. Others are finding a sense of community with more people as a whole who are trying to curb spending.

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