Debtors Anonymous

It is not surprising that so many addicts get involved in compulsive spending. Especially since the proliferation of credit cards, it is easy to go overboard. There is a sense of power in being able to gratify instantly a desire to have something you want, even if you don’t have the money or can’t afford it. Buy now, pay later — this is part of the American dream, isn’t it?

From the psychology of designing a shopping mall to the magazine and TV ads enticing you to charge it, a large segment of the business world seems intent on helping you overextend yourself. About the time you notice one credit card has reached its limit, you get a brand new one, unsolicited, in the mail. After all, banks and other financial institutions are making a healthy profit from money, and they are trying to sell you some of the most expensive money around.


Like the compulsive gambler, the compulsive debtor can get a “high” from the biochemical changes that accompany the purchase of goods or services. Also like for the gambler, these neurochemical imbalances are likely to be stronger on the “downside,” when they are driven by the fear of not being able to pay, or of losing everything.


New members at Debtors Anonymous are advised to avoid incurring any unsecured debt, including credit cards, personal loans, or educational loans. This avoids compulsive spending one day at a time.

Pressure Group

After several meetings, the new member is encouraged to set up a “pressure group.” Its purpose is to relieve pressure (remember the neurochemistry of fear we just mentioned). Two other DA members who have been abstinent from compulsive spending for a while meet several times with the new member for support and to develop a spending plan and a debt repayment plan. They also focus on any pressure that could lead to more debt.


Many debtors use deprivation as part of the disease, alternately bingeing and fasting like a bulimic. DA helps them learn to put legitimate personal and family needs first. As their financial and emotional condition improves, they can pay off their debts. DA does not advocate bankruptcy. Repaying debts is seen as part of Steps Eight and Nine.

For more information, contact one of the two hundred or so DA groups listed in the white pages of your phone book, or call or write:

Debtors Anonymous
PO Box 920888
Needham, MA 02492-0009
(781) 453-2743

Debtors Anonymous, see also: Enabling, Gambling, Meetings, Money, Other support groups, Spending, Steps of AA, Traditions of AA.

Updated 12 Sep 2015

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