Shopaholic Describes Childhood Trauma, Need to Buy

Shopaholic

St. John, the upscale clothing boutique, is Ginger Logan-Cannon's heaven... and her hell.

She paces the store, grabbing clothing off the racks like a kid in a candy shop. She grins and laughs and hoots and hollers. She is in heaven.

Ginger wants to buy everything she touches. But on this day, her psychiatrist has laid down the law. She can look, but she cannot purchase anything. Nothing. She is in hell.

It is like taking an alcoholic to a bar. But, believe it or not, this is a pivotal point in Logan-Cannon's therapy for what she herself describes as an addiction -- to shopping.

Logan-Cannon has made a habit of breaking, in spirit at least, the 10th commandment, which forbids coveting a neighbor's property.

She covets not just what her neighbor has, but even what her neighbors don't have. She covets most everything on display at the mall -- clothing, shoes, bags, boots -- all often priced far beyond her means.

"I probably would rather shop than eat," Logan-Cannon said. And her balance sheet confirms it. By her own count, Logan-Cannon is "about $280,000" in debt. That number did not include her mortgage or car payments.

That's a lot of money for a woman who spent 30 years as a parole officer in Orange County, Calif., making about $100,000 a year. Her husband, Jerome Cannon, is a telecommunications project manager.

And this is the debt she built up after getting a clean slate. Logan-Cannon says she has filed for bankruptcy twice and wiped out her retirement funds. Her financial problems put such a strain on her marriage that she and her husband once divorced and later remarried.

"If I look at all the money, the thousands of dollars I've spent over the years to where I am now, I think, what I could have done with that money," said Logan-Cannon. "Or what it could have done, or what I could have invested. That's kind of sad to me."

Saint or Sinner? Take the Quiz to Find Out Which Commandment You're Breaking Today

When we first met Logan-Cannon last spring, she was eager to change her ways.

To explore the nature of her addiction, and possible ways she might break her habit, ABC News arranged for Logan-Cannon to meet with Dr. Charles Sophy, a therapist who specializes in breaking addictions.

"What do you think you're addicted to? Do you think you're addicted to the furs, and to the diamonds and all that?" Sophy asked his patient.

"That's what I can't figure out," Logan-Cannon said. "Because it's not just shopping for me, I shop for everybody."

"Do you see it as a problem now, or no?" the doctor pressed.

"I see that it can be a problem, because I'm very impulsive with it."

"See -- that's the word I wanted to talk about," Sophy said.

Sophy said "shopping addiction," a phrase perhaps batted around as a joke among friends who like to spend, is no laughing matter.

"What's the big deal?" said Sophy. "You buy a dress or two, but the issue is the impact and the meaning it has globally in your life."

ABC News followed Logan-Cannon through four months of therapy. On an early visit to Sophy's offices, Logan-Cannon's reaction did not bode well for her breaking her addiction. "Oh God, he's in Beverly Hills, what a great place to have an office!" she said, laughing manically.

But Logan-Cannon's nervous laugh eventually gave way to tears.

She told Sophy she hated not being able to control her shopping. And on top of that she hated crying.

"It messes up your makeup, you look horrible," she said.

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