Do your purchases conceal a compulsive shopper? Washington psychiatrist Richard Greenberg makes these suggestions for dealing with the problem:

*Keep a diary. Carry around a pocket-size notebook for one month. Every time you go shopping, make an entry. List the day, date, time of day, number of stores visited, what you bought, in what quantity, amount spent and reasons why you shopped: Frustration? Loneliness? Boredom? Lack of attention? To fulfill a fantasy? To replace worn clothes? To take advantage of a sale? To buy a gift?

*Analyze the diary. At the end of one month, review your entries. Make a note next to each as to whether the items purchased have since been used.

*Review your checkbook. Go through six months' worth of checks, noting the number of payments on various charges. If you paid cash, look over receipts. Is the extra buying hurting your budget?

*Look around your house or apartment. Does every purchase have its place, or do you feel crowded?

*Think about relationships at home and at work. Have you spent so much time shopping that you've neglected family members or done less than your share at work? Is there disapproval of your shopping? Is it creating tension and arguments? Are you hiding purchases and bills to avoid scenes? Does your partner encourage your shopping, but then make you feel so badly about it that you say "yes" to something he or she wants to do even though it won't make you happy?

Can you stop cold turkey if you think you are a compulsive shopper?

It is not practical, says Greenberg, to try to stop cold turkey. Rather, you might try:

*Limiting future shopping to certain times of the month, and each month lengthening the number of days between shopping expeditions.

*Limiting the money you can spend.

*Taking a list, and sticking to it.

*Never shopping alone. Ask a caring friend or family member to accompany you.

*Looking for the cause behind your need to shop, and finding other means to satisfy your needs.

If you don't understand the unconscious psychological motives behind your drive to shop for things you don't need and won't use, you might want to have a mental health professional help you sort it out, says Greenberg.