TODAY   |  October 01, 2012

The high cost of shopping addiction

Oxygen’s new show, “My Shopping Addiction,” gives an intimate look at compulsive spending and how it hurts finances and relationships. Marceia Hawkins, a patient featured on the show, talks about how she’s tackling her shopping obsession.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back at 8:35 with an intimate look at the life of a compulsive spender. part of "my shopping addiction " a new show on nbc's sister network, oxygen. here is how one woman explains the thrill behind her spending.

>> i shop when i'm happy, i shop when i'm sad. i shop when i'm tired. when i'm bored. when i'm mad.

>> kim kardashian has nothing on me. omg. what do she have? oh, she's hot! i like to shop.

>> marsia hawkins is with us now, along with a licensed clinical psychologist who treats compulsive shoppers on the show. ladies, good morning. marsia , you give us a smile. but this is serious. you feel you have a shopping addiction ?

>> i definitely have a shopping addiction . every time i go to the store, i pretty much have to spend.

>> and as i understand it, you have a shoe collection valued at over $30,000. handbags, $12,500. and your real love , dresses, $60,000. that could not have happened overnight.

>> no. it was progressive. about ten years worth of shopping started working in retail.

>> yeah. you got that discount and thought hey, i'm saving money here.

>> exactly.

>> dr. romney , we heard about dr. drew's rehab program. but shopping addiction . this is a real disorder.

>> it very much is. because people are bringing themselves to financial ruin. they're hurtinging their relationships. they can't stop themselves. so this can really bring a life down and create years of debt and really big problems in all areas of their lives.

>> marsia , you have such a cute personality, and we saw that in the piece. but do you feel like you understand now what is driving this? what takes it beyond just somebody who enjoys shopping?

>> i did. working with dr. romney , i kind of identified the root of the problem and knowing where it started which is when i was in middle school and bullied a lot, didn't fit in with the kids, played violin, accelerated classes and different languages and didn't fit in. and i realized all the girls that were accepted and were popular were fashionable. they wore the hottest trends and garnished the attention and acceptance of others so i figured how do i fit in and i think that's where it began.

>> you started getting positive reinforcement with that.

>> i did.

>> but how has this affected your life? you found yourself going into debt? has it made problems with your friends and family?

>> i definitely have. i got into credit card debt , maxing out all of the credit cards , borrowing money from friends, robbing peter to pay paul . you know, my parents, family members --

>> i heard your parents said when you tried to borrow some money, they said uh-uh, forget it.

>> no. they said if you have money to shop, you don't need money from us.

>> oxygen, which, of course, has this show on the network, released a poll. part of which only 6% of americans admit they are addicted to shopping. but then if you ask, do you know someone who is addicted to shopping, the number shoots way up.

>> that's a very interesting disconnect. and it speaks to how many people don't have insight into the fact that this is a real problem for them. often until it's too late or someone else points it out to them.

>> you ran, marsia , through some exercises.

>> oh, yeah.

>> give us an example. how do you crack an addiction like this?

>> one way to crack an addiction like this is not let people respond in their usual way. go into a store, but don't buy. and marsia , you were not a happy camper when i said you can shop all you want, pull things off the rack, but you're walking out of here empty-handed. that was hard.

>> did you find that made a difference?

>> i mean, it was hard, because i didn't know that i couldn't spend. she sprung it on me. i thought i had a $500 gift card so i was excited to spend and at the end they said there is no money on this card. i was devastated.

>> so what have you had to go through psychologically to get to a better place ? and do you think you're doing better now?

>> i definitely think i'm doing better. i've actually consolidated all my credit cards so i don't have one credit card to spend. so if i don't have the money in the bank , i don't -- no shopping. which was the biggest step thus far, which was $16,000 already removed from my debt.

>> and dock dor tore, how do you know if you're somebody who likes to shop or have a problem?

>> i think if you're out of control, you're thinking about it a lot and it fills up a lot of your time. if a person is shopping four or five times a week, that's a lot. so it's time, money and the people you're affecting. you ask yourself those three questions and there's the answer.

>> marsia , and dr. romney , good to have you here. thank you and good luck to you.

>>> and a reminder, you can catch the premier of "my shopping addiction " monday night at