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Are you plagued by serial get-out-of-debt disorder?

Michelle Singletary on

-- You hunker down, aggressively cut expenses and maybe even get another job or work more hours to get out of debt.

-- You finally pay off the consumer debt. You're in remission. But because you haven't dealt with why you got into debt, you're right back in trouble.

During a recent online chat, I received a plea for advice from a reader suffering from this condition.

"I am in debt. Again," the person wrote. "I promised myself it wouldn't happen again after I filed for bankruptcy in 2000, but 17 years later I'm back in debt."

The reader says this time the debt is moderate. She's got $10,000 in credit card debt, which includes charges for car repairs and utility bills.

"My mortgage is behind by one month," she wrote. "I have steady income, but it's just my income, as my husband is an entrepreneur and companies have started paying when they want, which is not on time."

To alleviate their symptoms, sufferers often turn to a common cure.

"I am considering asking a family member to co-sign or obtain a loan for me to cover the debt so I can have one bill," the reader wrote. "The $10,000 loan would put me at zero debt other than that loan and student loans. Freeing up money would maybe help get me back on track."

So her question to me: "Does this make sense? I know I won't default/mess up the family member. I can't get a loan on my own."

Here's the regimen of treatment I recommend for this disorder:

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