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Confronting Compulsive Spending: Ask Noah

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Q: I'm a compulsive spender. I went to several weekly meetings and thought I'd curbed my shopping problem. Recently I've been seeing similar behavior patterns pop up including increased online purchasing. It's been difficult to get myself back to a meeting...I'm so ashamed. How can I get the treatment I know I need without feeling like I've failed?

A: In the age of consumerism, marked by seemingly unlimited credit and then massive debt, compulsive spending problems have become a very commonplace topic in the therapist's office.

For the purpose of this discussion, let's say you do have an addiction, which you loosely define as a "shopping problem." Whether you want to accept this or not, one of the main features of addiction is relapse. The key is learning from it and moving on.

My suggestion is a two-fold approach:

  1. 1. Regular attendance at self-help meetings.
  2. 2. Weekly sessions with an addiction psychotherapist.

Find a meeting that works for you. This will not happen overnight. Despite some awkward evenings, you have to be patient and stick with it. In relating to others, you will slowly identify the people, places and things that may contribute to that impulsive desire to spend. If you make a commitment to make a meeting each week, you will inevitability create a strong support network.

Continued attendance is also necessary as you begin working in individual therapy with your addiction psychotherapist. While you're learning about your "triggers," you'll simultaneously be able to investigate the underlining causes at play.

The following helps those who struggle with compulsive spending:

  1. 1. Examining the link between obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviors.
  2. 2. Addressing the accompanying depressive symptoms through identifying triggers and establishing coping skills.
  3. 3. Exploring ways to effectively process anger in a constructive fashion.
  4. 4. Reestablishing meaningful relationships with supportive family members and friends.

I sincerely applaud your reaching out and encourage a continuation of the healing process.

Good luck, and remember you are not alone.

As always, please send questions and comments to ASK NOAH at

Have a profitable and peaceful week,


Noah Kass is a psychotherapist specializing in addiction, relationship issues and work stressors. He has been Clinical Director at The Dunes: East Hampton and Realization Center in Union Square. Mr. Kass was a frequent guest on MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," featured in a segment called "Kass' Couch" and regularly blogs for The Huffington Post.

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