Signs You're a Shopaholic

Kristen Becker owns enough clothes and shoes to outfit an entire village. She shops constantly online and visits the mall at least once or twice a week. She owns more than a dozen pairs of Ugg boots, and hundreds of shirts, pants and dresses.

Does this sound familiar to you?

If so, you may be a shopaholic. There are more than 25 million Americans classified as compulsive shoppers. How do you know if your large appetite for spending makes you a shopping addict?

We tapped Dr. April Benson, author of "To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop" to walk us through the four telltale signs and how to control the urge to splurge.

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"Compulsive buying is called the 'smiled-upon addiction' because consumption fuels our economy," says Benson. "People who are compulsive buyers are often struggling with low self esteem, emptiness, loneliness. Compulsive buying is their go-to activity to tolerate distress and regulate their emotion."

Sign #1 - Shopping As a Quick Fix

Ask yourself, "Is shopping a quick fix to change my mood?" Dr. Benson says you want to be mindful if you use shopping as your go-to activity to handle your emotions or uplift your spirits.

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"I love the mall," says Becker. "The mall is five minutes from my house. I go every week. I have a bunch of credit cards for every store. I have a little holder I put them all in. It's just something I look forward to doing." Benson says if people stop using credit cards, only use cash and avoid Internet shopping, they could eliminate 75-80% of over-shopping.

Sign #2 - Hiding Shopping Bags

Ever conceal shopping bags from a loved one? You're not alone if you do this. A 2010 survey found that roughly 80% of all married couples hide some purchases from their mates. Becker admits to hiding packages and bags from her husband.

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"I get packages almost every day and I have to get home before him so I can grab them at the door and throw them in the closet so he can't find them," she says.

Sign #3 - Losing Interest In Purchase

Still another sign you may be a shopaholic is if you quickly lose excitement over a purchase.

"The compulsive buyer's mood is usually lower before the purchase," says Benson. "It shoots way up, beyond the level of the normal buyer, at the point of purchase. After the purchase, however, the compulsive buyer's mood takes a nosedive. It doesn't go all the way back to where it was before, which is what makes the behavior so reinforcing."

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Six Questions

Benson has six questions shoppers should ask themselves to avoid slipping into compulsive buying. Ask:

Why am I here?

How do I feel?

Do I need this?

What if I wait?

How will I pay for it

Where will I put it?

For compulsive shoppers who have tried to stop, but were unsuccessful, she suggests seeking the help of a licensed therapist, shopper support group, or online resources such as Debtors Anonymous and ShopaholicNoMore.

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In Becker's case, she's using her willpower to steer clear of the mall. After getting married in December and decided to make a New Year's Resolution to not purchase any new articles of clothing or shoes. "It's going well," she says. "I'm on Day 72. I have a blog started where every day I document what I'm wearing and I write a little bit about it - where it's from - and so far it's really helped me stick to my resolution."

Do you think you show signs of compulsive shopping? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.

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