Part 1: Why You Shop: Compulsive Behavior
The difference between impulse shopping and compulsive shopping is frequency. Impulse shopping happens when you find yourself, occasionally, faced with a purchase that's too tough to resist. Compulsive shopping is when you shop more often then you'd like, feeling unable to stop.

It turns out, there are four basic types of compulsive shoppers.
  • "Revenge addicts" shop as a way of getting back at another person, typically a spouse, with whom they're unable to communicate in any other way.
  • "Existential addicts" shop because the act of finding the right thing at the right price makes them feel important and gives their life meaning.
  • "Serial addicts" are people for whom compulsive shopping is just one in a series of compulsive behaviors like eating, drinking or drug abuse.
  • The fourth group shops to boost their mood—although in a much larger way than the people in our first group. When a compulsive shopper prepares to buy, her mood rises steadily—her heart quickens, her palms sweat. When she makes her purchase, her mood plateaus, then it quickly falls off. Her good feelings quickly evaporate and remorse or guilt sets in.

How to Resist: There is no quick fix for compulsive behavior. People who spend compulsively need to develop an emotional system that will help them tolerate distress in other areas of their lives. You also need help.

Some resources to consider:
  • Debtors Anonymous ( If there is no chapter in your area, try Gamblers Anonymous ( Although debt and gambling problems manifest themselves differently, they are actually fairly similar.)
  • You can also search for a therapist at the website To narrow the field, specify on the second pull-down menu that you're searching for help with an addiction. Then ask the therapists that you call if they've helped other compulsive spenders.

Read more about the other reasons people spend:
Entertainment | Mood Repair | Habit | Impulse

Go on to Step 8, Part 2: How to Protect Yourself and Start Saving Now
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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