Do you worry you may have an addiction to spending money? When we shop, a 'feelgood' chemical is released making us feel on top of the world. But, before long, this euphoria is followed by feelings of guilt or 'I can't really afford this'. If you think you may have a spending addiction, it's important to get help to deal with the problem, sooner rather than later. Know you are not alone. There are an estimated 13 million spending addicts in America alone. The good news is that there are cures to help conquer a spending addiction.

Spending addiction: See the Signs:

Do you have a wardrobe full of clothes where the labels and tags are still attached? Do you ever hide your shopping from loved ones? Pretend something was a lot less expensive than it really cost you? Do you wear some clothes just once or twice, before relegating them to the back of the closet? Can you not resist frequent trips to the mall, and always come home with more than you'd planned to buy? Are there debts mounting up that you can't afford to pay as a result of your spending habits?

If you answered 'yes' to 2 or more of these questions, you may have a spending addiction.

Spending addiction: Understand the Cause

Spending addiction is caused by a number of factors. Firstly, marketers are becoming ever more clever at telling us we 'must' have a particular item. That your life will be infinitely better with that product. Think of how the fashion industry is constantly telling us about those 'must have' items. This builds a desire that is hard for many of us to resist.

This marketing pressure is coupled with our own self-esteem issues. If you are not feeling good about yourself, then it's easy to convince yourself that if you only had 'XYZ' product, you'd look better, feel better, have a better life, etc etc etc. Sound familiar?

In the old days, it used to be called 'Keeping up with the Joneses' – if a neighbour or a friend had something desirable, then to feel equal and on a par with them, the need would be there to have the same things or lifestyle, to feel equal or superior to them. But spending to compete with others is a sure fire recipe for disaster, not for happiness.

Spending addiction is often a replacement to something that is lacking in our life. Perhaps it's love and attention from others. Or because we feel not good enough as a human being, we believe that if we just have that thing, life will be better – that gap will be filled. Maybe we feel we have a certain image to present, to be seen by our peers as successful and confident. Maybe it's a form of protecting ourself from the realities of life that we don't wish to face.

The truth is, we are not all equal. Some people have more disposable income than others. Even if you can afford your spending addiction, you may find yourself ultimately unfulfilled by making those purchases. If that is the case, you still need to take a look at what is missing in your life and driving your desire to shop.

If you recognize any of the above signs of spending addiction, then it may be time to acknowledge that you may have a problem. After all, you took the first step by reading this article, didn't you? Acknowledging you have a spending addiction problem is a really positive first step (give yourself a pat on the back) - but what next?

Spending addiction: Getting Professional Debt Help

Back in the day, people used to save up for the things that they wanted or needed. Today, we are inclined to pay for these things on credit, but it's not the route to wealth and prosperity. Rich people are not the people who are drowning in credit - they are more likely to penny pinch, than to splurge.

If you are in debt, you will need practical help and advice on how to manage those debts, get your finances back in check and conquer your spending addiction.

For the emotional side of your spending addiction, you need to consider getting expert help. Be brave. Speak to a therapist who deals in addiction problems. Or contact Debtors Anonymous – even if you aren't yet in debt, they can help make sure you stay that way.

Spending addiction: Self Help

  • Whenever you see something you feel you must have, add it to a list. Then wait for at least 30 days before making that purchase. You'll find that the majority of those items have lost their appeal by the time those 30 days have passed and you are ready to buy them.
  • Look at your finances and plan accordingly to spend only what you need, with a little extra for a small weekly 'treat'. Withdraw your weekly spending money in cash, and spend only cash. The cards stay somewhere you can't get to them easily.
  • Keep your credit and debit cards in ice in the freezer, so you can't access them easily. Even better – be brave, and cut up the credit and store cards. You can get new ones when you've beaten the need to spend. If you must, keep one in ice as an 'in case of emergency' card. But know that an emergency isn't those new pair of shoes that are just to die for.
  • Write a shopping list before you go out - and stick to it.
  • Find an alternative to hanging out in the mall – only go if you absolutely can't avoid it.
  • Take a look at the Debtors-Anonymous 12 step program – and consider joining a support group.

Conquering a spending addiction is possible, and while you may feel you will be empty without shopping in your life, the truth is you will feel happier, less pressured and more confident as a result - try it - and good luck!