DETROIT (WWJ) – ‘Tis the season to shop — but that means serious trouble for the nearly 9 percent of people who are are shopping addicts.

“People laugh at it, you know … they say, come on, you’re just a poor money manager or you’re just a materialistic, superficial you-know-what,” said Terry Shulman, who counsels shopping addicts. “Not to get political, but look at our own government — we;re trillions of dollars in debt.”

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Shulman said shopping addiction is no joke.

Each year he is inundated with clients when the bills come in at the end of January and they’re in serious trouble —  often with their relationships.

Shulman said for most of us it’s fun to shop. But for real addicts, when they’re at the store, it’s something more.

“They’re getting more and more excited. The craving becomes so intense that they have to give into the craving, to buy it or to steal it in order to than have relief or a release,” Shulman said.  “People by the end of January, February figure out that they need help, because … they get the Visa bills, they’re having fights with their partner or they’re getting arrested and are getting ready to go to court.”

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So how can you help a shopping addict?   Shulman said loved ones show avoid scolding, being judgmental and making rules.

“The best thing to do is say, ‘I am talking to you because I love you and I care about you.’ You have to almost do a mini intervention; sometimes you need a professional to get involved or a few other family or friends to say we see a problem and we want you to look at your behavior,” he said.

Shulman said most are soothing their grief or loss or filling a void left over from poor parenting in their childhood.

He said addicts should consider healthier way to spend their free time like trying out a new hobby, volunteering, reading or exercising.

“Nature abhors a vacuum  and if you don’t fill it in with something positive it will be filled with something negative. And, frankly, a lot of people probably just need to rest,” he said.

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