Dear Patricia Marie,

I am a shopaholic and I don't know how to stop. My friends are concerned about me, but they don't understand and are so irritating. I love designer clothes and keep ordering items from the Internet without any regard for how I'm going to pay for them. I just put everything on my credit card, and when that reaches its limit, I use another.

Up until now I haven't even considered the implications of owing so much money. My wardrobes are full, yet I crave more. Having plenty of designer clothes initially makes me feel happy and successful, but in contrast, I am actually just a doctor's receptionist and very depressed. I have recently been thinking about moving out of my rented flat and buying my own place, but not sure if I would be able to get a mortgage with my growing debt. Please advise.

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, but once you gain a better understanding of your behaviour you will be in a stronger position to take control of your life again. 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 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'.

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. With all addiction treatment, honesty and acceptance about one's self is key and taking responsibility of your financial situation would be a huge part of your recovery process. 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.