(NEW YORK) -- Tawnie is one of nearly 18 million shopaholics in America.
“The average price I spend on a pair of jeans is usually $150 to $300–and I have at least 100 pairs,” she said on an episode of My Shopping Addiction, a show about compulsive shoppers that airs on the Oxygen network.
For recovering shopping addict Sarah Downey, who was also featured on the show, handbags and shoes are like designer drugs.
She’s even gone dumpster diving to satisfy her addiction.
Asked if that marked rock bottom for her, the Los Angeles resident gave a surprising answer: “That was my ultimate high,” she said.
Speaking in an interview that aired Monday on Good Morning America, she added: “At certain locations, you will see very affluent women jumping into dumpsters as well. I love it.”
Downey was so addicted that, in the course of four years, she spent thousands of dollars patronizing the one dozen thrift stores within walking distance from her studio apartment.
“It’s kind of better than sex,” she said of her habit, adding: “Well, I guess, you know, maybe I haven’t had very good lovers, but, you know,” Downey added.
Four years ago, Downey got a sudden and painful divorce after six years of marriage. The marriage had been filled with pricey shopping sprees, and when she and her husband split, she continued her shopping at thrift stores.
Downey got her wake-up call from psychologist Ramani Durvasula on My Shopping Addiction, a TV show on the Oxygen network.
Durvasula told Downey that she was 32 and broke, Downey recalled, adding: “You’re like ‘wow, you know, that hurts.’”
Durvasula described how people can recognize if they have a shopping problem.
“It’s a problem when we look at three major areas. Is it causing financial problems? Problem number two: your relationships. Number three: time,” she said.
Downey spent time shopping at the expense of personal relationships. Durvasula convinced her to donate hordes of merchandise and purchase only what she needs.
Many shopaholics are especially vulnerable to the temptation to spend more than they can afford over the holidays, but they are not alone, according to a new study conducted by Oxygen with Research Now. Half of Americans will spend more than they can afford this holiday season, according to the study, and 36 percent said they have gone into credit card debt in order to buy gifts.
Now, Downey’s life is different.
“In the last six months, I’ve probably shopped less than five times. So, huge change,” she said.
Now, when Downey cruises thrift stores, there’s no impulse to buy. When she walks into a store, she says, “It’s just like ‘I don’t have the time anymore.’”
That’s not to say she’s not tempted. She looks at a pair of red shoes, which she calls “pretty awesome,” but adds: “I’d like to have these, but I don’t need them.”
My Shopping Addiction airs Mondays on Oxygen.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio