LOS ANGELES - A man who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Gary, is a recovering shopping addict and shared his story with FOX 11.
"I had an allowance. I would blow my allowance immediately,” he said. "I got a credit card and maxed it out almost immediately and I had gone a couple hundred over the limit."
Compulsive shopping is a common addiction according to Licensed Therapist Kati Morton. She has patients that struggle with similar addictions.
“One of my patients had a storage unit and her husband never saw anything she would just drop things off there,” Morton said.
Gary's compulsive shopping started in college. After he graduated, his parents gave him his trust fund, $25,000.
“I went through it in probably a few months. It's hard for me to sit in peace,” he said. “There’s a part of me that wants to sabotage that.”
Morton says being in debt it's a way to cope with trauma
“It’s a way to numb out from everything I think a lot of us shop to fill other voids to calm other upsets,” Morton added.
Gary is no different.
“I was sexually assaulted in college. Right after it happened I ordered every dessert on the menu and I ended up spending all my money," he said.
Gary’s compulsive shopping led to other addictions like alcohol and drugs.
Ten years ago he finally sought help and entered Debtors Anonymous. In the program, members learn how to save money with a mechanism called a prune reserve.
“We learned what it would cost to live for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and then a year. A voice in the back of my head kept saying 'anyone who has $5,000 in the bank is a jerk.'"
Gary then created multiple bank accounts and saved $5,000 in each one. He says he had to learn how to trick his brain. According to Morton, this is about the brain and it is a disease.
“In therapy what we try to figure out is what's the trigger because once we know we can work to heal that that tells us a lot about the behavior,” Morton said. “I think we all need to check our judgments... we don't know what it is like to be that person.”
Gary is currently doing well. He says he is saving each month and goes to weekly meetings.
He knows it will be a lifelong struggle but he sought help before his addiction led him to jail or worse.
If you or someone you know has a shopping addiction, health experts recommend seeking help. There are many resources available including Debtors Anonymous.