11/07/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Are You a Bulimic Shopper?

One of my clients recently labeled herself a bulimic shopper. She buys clothes, brings them home, and then returns them. She says it is exactly like a food binge. The shopping and the buying are the high and the fun. She is aware enough to tell me that she uses both to avoid dealing directly with whatever is bothering her. Once the clothes are home and she tries them on again she feels let down. The high of the hunt and the score has dissipated, and she is left with the reality of what she has bought and ultimately, the bill. She will agonize over whether or not to return the items for a few days and then will usually take them back. She feels relief when the return is completed. It is very much like the bulimic feels after purging. She will often make a promise to herself not to do it again and then she finds herself shopping because this time she "needs" something.

Do you relate to this person? Would you call yourself a bulimic shopper? If so, can you comment and let my client know that she is not alone?

My hunch is that this goes on all the time. Maybe not as consciously as it does with my client, with the intent of buying and returning, but when you return home with the merchandise, and the high of the hunt/buy has worn off, the remorse sets in. Just like the bulimic feels after consuming huge amounts of high calorie foods. There is the knowledge that if they keep that food, they will gain weight and all they have to do is purge and voila...

The consequences of binging and purging with food are great and can even be lethal. The toll it takes on the body is real and dangerous. What are the side effects of bulimic shopping? Are there any? Is this a harmless distraction? What do you think?

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about the process of weight loss, please visit and take the survey.