Behavior: 365 Shopping Days till Christmas

For compulsive buyers, life is a long, ruinous spree

'Tis the season to eat and drink and -- above all -- shop. For most Americans, the Christmas buying frenzy is a once-a-year splurge. But for hundreds of thousands of men and women, the holidays are a special torment, a brutal reminder of a day-in, day-out compulsion. Call them shopaholics. Gayle, 48, a Chicago secretary who declared bankruptcy last summer after running up debts of $32,000, is not faring well this Christmas. She is lavishing gifts on friends and family -- and on herself too. Says she, wearily: "I have not been able to control myself."

Shop-till-you-drop types tend to draw...

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