Can Therapy Stop Shopaholic from Spending?

For one woman, shopping is a "safe" place away from violent past.

BySusan Kriskey and Suzan Clarke via via logo
September 30, 2009, 8:14 PM

Oct. 1, 2009 — -- For years, Ginger Logan-Cannon said she didn't know why she was such a shopping addict that she racked up $280,000 in debt. But after ABC News connected her with a therapist, Logan-Cannon discovered the source of her addiction could be linked to a violent day in her distant past, more than 40 years ago.

The southern California woman has been a shopaholic for years. She's already filed for bankruptcy twice. Her husband has had to build her extra closet space in their garage.

Over the years, the 30-year parole officer's habit has led her to buy things she shouldn't buy or that she can't afford.

She's purchased multiple pairs of boots in the same color, as well as furs and costly clothing.

But she has sought therapy to end her habit because of the strain it has placed on her relationship with her husband, Jerome Cannon.

Then, ABC News introduced her to Dr. Charles Sophy six months ago. Logan-Cannon allowed ABC News to observe her therapy, which includes office sessions and visits to stores.

On a recent visit to St. John's, her favorite shopping destination, the psychiatrist allowed her to try on clothing but didn't allow her to make a single purchase.

"This is killing me," she said of the shopping restriction. "It feels bad. It almost really makes me feel sick."

But the real pain, Logan-Cannon eventually discovered, was not linked to shopping at all.

The therapy has revealed that Logan-Cannon shops to bury her feelings and escape from horrible memories -- especially one horrific incident.

Logan-Cannon, who is black, grew up in Berkley, Calif., in the racially turbulent 1960s.

One day, she was attacked by a group of white boys who pushed her in front of a speeding bus. After she got onto the bus, one of the boys put on brass knuckles and, she said, "he just beat my face to a pulp."

She suppressed the memory of the beating for years, but Sophy said the resulting tendency to disconnect from emotion is a big part of her shopping habit.

Shopping as a Refuge

Logan-Cannon describes shopping as "a really safe space to be."

"I feel like I am really connected," she said.

Having a network of personal shoppers and friends who aren't supportive of her efforts to control her shopping doesn't help, Sophy said, likening them to "cocaine dealers."

"You can't have somebody who is not happy that you left a store and had enough strength to not buy anything," he added.

Little by little, Logan-Cannon is finding the strength to resist the lure, although she described a recent shopping-free therapy visit to Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive as "punishment."

Part of Logan-Cannon's progress also involves getting rid of some of the things she's amassed over the years.

There is now room in her garage for a car, and she feels more in control. And even though Sophy said she still has to work at controlling her habit, Logan-Cannon envisions a day when she will be able to walk down Rodeo Drive and not be so powerfully tempted to spend.

"I am much further than I was, and I realize how it impacted not just me but everyone around … everything that you do, what it does to your relationships," she said.

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