Shulman adds that for some, emotional deprivation, or feeling unloved, plays a role, just as it does with other compulsions, such as addiction to food, drugs, or sex. "We try to do that painful work in therapy, to find another way to find love and feel love," he says.
- Look at possible medications. While studies on the effect of medications on compulsive shopping haven't reached any hard-and-fast conclusions, antidepressants or antianxiety medications are sometimes helpful, Shulman adds.
- Check out 12-step programs. Most towns and cities have Shoppers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, or Overspenders Anonymous programs that operate much like Alcoholics Anonymous. "For some people, it becomes a spiritual path," says Shulman.
- Find new activities. Vallis says a new set of friends and social life helped break the shopping habit. She suggests to others, "Schedule activities to fill the time that you would usually find yourself shopping—whether it's playing softball, joining a book club, taking cooking classes, or something else."