Compulsive spending is a problem that affects millions of people from all walks of life. In a society that actively promotes conspicuous consumption, credit card abuse has reached epidemic proportions, causing untold heartache and ruined lives. Shopping is a pastime that hooks us into spending more than we can afford. Malls are like giant theme parks that beckon us to make out dreams come true through purchasing things. Mall Therapy is a quick and enjoyable way to curb the unstoppable urge to spend.

If you are a shopaholic, this technique is one you can do yourself to promote immediate changes in your behavior. You will need the aid of someone you can trust who is not addicted to shopping, to carry out this experiment. Explain to your companion that you are performing an experiment to find out more about yourself. The other person needs to promise to be supportive and not make any judgmental comments.

Pick a shopping mall, large department store or giant warehouse. You can decide to go during a slow time or a very busy weekend. Plan to stay for one hour. Here is a list of questions you can have your helper ask you as you progress through the hour.

1. After you enter the mall or store, look around and take stock of the setting. Ask yourself how anxious, fearful, or excited you are on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being very calm and 10 being extremely emotional. What are you telling yourself? Share it with your friend.

2. Find the mall or store directory and read it through quickly. What are your thoughts? Which shops or departments are the hardest to resist? Share your thoughts and feelings with your helper and select a destination.

3. While walking toward your destination become aware of your reactions to the other areas you pass. How do you feel? It is okay to window shop. Keep verbalizing your thoughts and any urges to stop and shop.

4. When you reach your destination, stop for a moment and rate your anxiety on the 1 to 10 scale. What are you telling yourself about this place? What do you want to do? What will happen if you follow through? If you know that you will regret that action, are you willing to act in a new way? Share your thoughts with your companion as you browse or try on things. How do you feel while you are touching the merchandise or trying things on? Talk about it. What do you want to do now? What do you decide do?

5. Leave the shopping area and find a place to stop and take stock. What was that experience like? How was it different from the way you usually shop? What new decisions did you make? Write them down.

6. Ask your friend what he or she thought about as you both walked around and looked at the merchandise. Does this person think the way you do? Compare your ideas with each other. If your friend’s outlook is different, try not to think of it as criticism. What have you just learned?

7. If there is time, pick a second shop and go through the same steps. See if anything has changed.

8. Leave the mall or store. How do you feel right now, anxious, guilty, elated? Take stock of what you have learned in the last hour. What changes will you put into action immediately?

Some decisions that other shopaholics have made are: shop only with a list, stay aware of the temptations of the stores or windows “calling to you,” pretend that you are wearing blinders. Perhaps you will decide to set a specific time allotment for your shopping excursion, just enough time to get the things on your list. Become accountable for leaving the store at the promised time, no matter what.

The exercise I have just described can be done in front of your TV as you watch a home-shopping program, if this is one of your compulsions. Be sure you have a helper take you through the questions as the program progresses.

Reading about how to change can be informative, but actually to do it is sometimes difficult. When you find yourself resisting change, you may begin to hate yourself and may quit without giving yourself enough time to find ways to overcome your resistance. Working with a therapist or support group can help you push past the stumbling blocks and learn to confront your conflicts and fears. The important thing is to dedicate yourself to the idea that you can overcome your spending or debting problem, no matter what it takes.

Author's Bio: 

Gloria Arenson, MS, MFT, D.CEP specializes in using EFT to treat stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, phobias, and compulsions. Her extensive knowledge of eating disorders and compulsive behaviors led her to write How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game, A Substance Called Food, Born To Spend, the award winning Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, and co-author Freedom At Your Fingertips. Her latest book is Procrastination Nation. She is Past President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP).