July 16, 2003
Stanford Researchers Discover Treatment For Obsessive Shopping Disorder

As the saying goes "I am not making this up". Anti-depressant SSRI citalopram controls obsessive compulsive shopping disorder.

In a study appearing in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, patients taking citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that is approved for use as an antidepressant, scored lower on a scale that measures compulsive shopping tendencies than those on a placebo. The majority of patients using the medication rated themselves "very much improved" or "much improved" and reported a loss of interest in shopping.

"I'm very excited about the dramatic response from people who had been suffering for decades," said Lorrin Koran, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and lead author of the study. "My hope is that people with this disorder will become aware that it's treatable and they don't have to suffer."

Compulsive shopping disorder, which is estimated to affect between 2 and 8 percent of the U.S. population, is categorized by preoccupation with shopping for unneeded items and the inability to resist purchasing such items. Although some people may scoff at the notion of shopping being considered an illness, Koran said this is a very real disorder. It is common for sufferers to wind up with closets or rooms filled with unwanted purchases (one study participant had purchased more than 2,000 wrenches; another owned 55 cameras), damage relationships by lying to loved ones about their purchases and rack up thousands of dollars in debt.

"Compulsive shopping leads to serious psychological, financial and family problems including depression, overwhelming debt and the breakup of relationships," Koran said. "People don't realize the extent of damage it does to the sufferer."

Earlier studies suggested that the class of medications known as SSRIs might be effective for treating the disorder, but this had not been confirmed through a trial in which participants didn't know whether they were taking a placebo or the actual medication. Koran and his team sought to test citalopram - the newest SSRI on the market at that time - by conducting a seven-week, open-label trial followed by a nine-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

The study involved 24 participants (23 women and one man) who were defined as suffering from compulsive shopping disorder based on their scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale-Shopping Version, or YBOCS-SV. Patients with scores above 17 are generally considered as suffering from compulsive shopping disorder. Most of the participants had engaged in compulsive shopping for at least a decade and all had experienced substantial financial or social adverse consequences of the disorder.

During the open-label portion of the study, each participant took citalopram for seven weeks. By the end of the trial, the mean score of the YBOCS-SV decreased from 24.3 at baseline to 8.2. Fifteen patients (63 percent) were defined as responders - meaning they self-reported as being "very much improved" or "much improved" and had a 50 percent or greater decrease in their YBOCS-SV scores. Three subjects discontinued their use of the medication because of adverse events such as headache, rash or insomnia.

The responders were randomized into the double-blind portion of the trial in which half took citalopram for nine weeks and the other half took a placebo. Five of the eight patients (63 percent) who took the placebo relapsed - indicated by self-reporting and YBOCS-SV scores above 17. The seven patients who continued the medication saw a decrease in their YBOCS-SV scores and also reported a continued loss of interest in shopping, cessation of browsing for items on the Internet or TV shopping channels, and the ability to shop normally without making impulsive purchases.

I've argued in the past that biomedical advances will lead to treatments that cause large changes in group-average behavior. Well, here's a drug that already exists which has the potential to affect the size of the GDP and the efficiency of the markets. My guess is that it would be a net benefit to the economy over a longer period of time since consumer debt in the US economy is much too high. People who do not make compulsive purchases probably tend to accumulate longer-lasting assets and to invest more.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 July 16 02:39 PM  Biological Mind

Patrick said at July 16, 2003 10:22 PM:

And the best thing about developing a drug for obsessive shoppers is: you know they will buy it :)

Zack Lynch said at July 17, 2003 12:11 PM:

Patrick, that is a hilarious comment! Or maybe they like their addiction and won't.

Jennifer said at October 22, 2003 6:17 PM:

I am thousands of dollars in debt EACH month because of obsessive shopping. I am taking this article to my doctor and see what happens. I'll write back if it works.

karen said at January 8, 2004 12:14 PM:


grant said at January 13, 2004 3:12 PM:

My mother has a full-blown thrift shopping addiction. Her house is literally full to the roof with boxes upon boxes of items that she will never remember are there. It has ruined my relationship with her and will overwhelm her until her death if she does not find a way out. I have considered burning the house down. I have considered throwing an estate sale in her absence. Hopefully, this drug can help her, but if anyone has overcome a family member's enormous addiction, please write to me and give me some advice.

Abby said at January 18, 2004 1:48 PM:

My mother loves to shop in flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales etc. She has a basement full of boxes and boxes of various items. For example she buys plastic storage containers and labels them. Right now she has about 4 storage containers labeled shorts. She hasn't worn shorts in ages. She has about 4 containers labeled capri pants, a couple containers labeled black tops, a couple labeled white pants and so on. All together there is about 40 containers. She has approximately 8 or 9 closets with more clothes in the house and she doesn't throw anything away. She is 50 years old and still has clothes and items from her teenage days. The problem is, she doesn't wear any of these clothes and she goes on a shopping spree EVERY weekend. She could never buy one of any item. For example, sewing kits, screw sets. She buys them by the dozen. She buys everything by the dozen. She recently bought over a dozen wine glass sets because they were pretty and cheap. Neither of my parents drink. The house is overly cluttered and it has been causing problems between her and my father for years and it is just gettting worst every year. Her job has recently reprimanded her because they say her office and work area is cluttered and she is not qualified for her job. She buys groceries obsessively and stores it at different family member's houses so my father won't fuss with her and because there is no room in the house. I seriously think my mother has some sought of psychological problem and I'm afraid in the near future something serious will happen to her.



chelsea jean said at May 9, 2004 10:41 AM:

Hi to the makers of this amazing experiment. Im really interested in the whole obsessive fashion thing, so much so that for my sophmore english class I am writing a thesis paper on it. I am just looking for a little more information on this topic and I cant seem to find much. I would love it if you would email me with any info that you think would help me out. THANKS~

julie mclaughlin said at May 30, 2004 5:43 PM:

Does anyone know if this test is available? I may have this disorder. I do not have tons of things piled in my house, but I do love to shop every day... I get such a high from finding a bargain... My shopping is limited to TJMaxx, Stein Mart, Marshalls, Penneys, etc. Lately I have really been into garage sales. Most of what I buy I do use, though. I give a lot of things to good friends, and tend to shop for them as well. Shopping is my favorite thing to do.

Suzy Hiatt said at May 31, 2004 3:17 AM:

Wow, I never realized there were people out there that are going through the same problem I am...
How could I get into a group session and or take that test? I am with Jennifer, this article is going with
me to visit my doctor. Hopefully to get some help so I can begin to feel better about myself. Thanks for
opening my eyes, I feel much better knowing there are others. Suzy

Kat J said at August 17, 2004 11:57 AM:

After reading all the comments:

It is so sad that others think this is a joke. But it isn't, it is definitely a complusive disorder. It is not cute nor funny; so stop laughing!

Help is needed, and be a true friend, sister, father, brother, mother, daughter, son, etc. help the person and be kind when they talk about their addiction. It has now become a behavior/addiction (like a drug) they need help in changing the pattern.

Loved ones can not do it on their own . . . be a little more understanding.

It is like any other addiction, gambling, alcohol, drugs, running, etc.

Save a life, a family, a financial catastrophe, help some one. Tell them about this web site.

Be thankful that they are trying to find a cure.

David said at January 4, 2005 6:55 AM:

My wife has refinanced our previous house 6 times and pulled out over $70,000, ran up $15,000 in credit cards debt. All without my knowledge. She is filing bankruptcy for the 2nd time in 14yrs. She has also filed for devorce twice in 2 yrs. My concern is finding a good doctor who does more then says, "uh huh...uh huh...try these drugs." I want to know if there is anything to know about this type of behavior and are there any options. She is 35 yrs old and I think more then growing up and being responsable is not the only thing going on here. Any ideas would be helpful.


Merlen said at March 15, 2005 5:58 PM:

Please help me! I have ashopping disorder. I literraly shoppe every week. I've travel to every outlets in NY you can think of. Now, I am getting marry and I need to save but I cannot shopping. Mostly sale items,but it's adds up. I owned over 300 pair of designer shoes don't mention clothes. Please help me. I want to stop, but I don't know how.

Jen said at July 14, 2005 5:24 PM:

shopping makes me happy

d.d. said at July 24, 2005 11:45 PM:

Somebody help me...or at least lead me in the right direction! My obsessive/compulsive shopping disorder is primarily with electronics. It has been going on for about six years. Basically, I always have to have the latest and greatest laptop computers, cell phones, digital cameras, mp3 players, etc. This has already caused me to declare bankruptcy once. I will buy the latest products and when newer updated ones come out, I sell the other ones on ebay. I usually end up losing a lot of money on the items I sell. I go to Fry's electronics every weekend to return things and buy new things as well. I guess I just get that "rush" of getting something new. It's like a drug. I'm constantly figuring out how I can manipulate my finaces to get the latest new thing. I need help!!! any suggestions...email me at ph6138@aol.com

Carol Taylor said at August 2, 2005 1:49 AM:

Thank god I found this posting I know now I am not alone. I live in the UK and my shopping addiction has got worse of the last 10 years I think eventually I will have to file bankrupcy because of the debt I owe. By chance my GP put me on this antidepressant 2 and a half months ago (I am on a low dosage).
I have looked at shop windows but I have not been tempted to go in an purchase but it is early days I am also going for cognitive therapy soon and hope this will help someone.

mrs d lloyd said at August 2, 2005 10:07 AM:

Hi, I have a shopping addiction. I shop for clothes, fashion clothes. I always try to keep up with the fashion as it makes me feel smart, intelligent, attractive. I am 33 now and have had this problem since I left school. I know I'm doing wrong when I spend but I can't seem to stop my self. The problem gets worse when my partner goes away with work, I get depressed and lonely and I go shopping to cheer my self up. I have spent days walking around shopping centres on my own and coming home with bags of clothes. I feel good for a few days and then the feeling wears off, I then feel I need to go and get more to feel good again. I will be honest with you, this has taken a hold of me, I live for clothes, its an escapism. I would be grateful if you would give me some advice on how to stop this as I feel like Im bad for doing it and possessed or something, thanks for reading this

Juliet said at November 29, 2005 8:16 PM:

Hi. I see lots of requests for advice but very little advice (other than the drug) given on this site. However, Id like to add to the requests. I believe my mother may have a compulsive shopping disorder. There has been much evidence over the years, but it didnt strike me until when I visited her and needed a towel. I opened the cupboards and found more towels than probably the entire chain of Marriot owns. With no exaggeration there must have been anywhere from 100-200 towels in that closet. We do not have an open relationship, so if anyone has advice on how to approach this, please do forward it to me.

Thank you.

Tyler Fields said at December 20, 2005 2:58 PM:

I'm only 13 years old and I'm having really bad problems, I shop till I drop as much as posible, sometimes 3-4 times a week. I have took money from my grandma and other people. I try to stop all the time, I stop for a week or two but then I sneek on my computer and charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars every week. I spend so much money that I cant sleep. Another example of how much money I spend, I have spent about $500 on cellphone cover and the guy knows me so much because I go there 2-3 times a week and I people in A&F no me really well. I even owe my frends hundreds of dollars. Is there any way out!!! e-mail me if you can help.

suzanne said at January 11, 2006 6:09 AM:

i feel out of control in my life. The shopping gives me a high and a big low. I shop big box and discount stores. I spend so much energy trying to hide and control this problem. I am embarrassed and scared. I have 4 young children and a wonderful husband. I know that I will screw up their lives if I can't find a way to control this. I understand this behavior is somehow linked to what ever emotional needs I have,that are not being met.

Sabrina Franks! said at February 9, 2006 7:28 AM:

Look all of you seem to be needing something in your life and are all deeeeeppp in debt. I have no disorder never have smoked and tried achol once by accident when I thought it was water. I've never used drugs and I got to this site for a school magazine project. It sounds like I'm a freak with the thick glasses scared to death by boys with pitails. No, look all you guys have to think right when you need to get that happiness shopping brings. Wait. I have a family, a home, friends a husband/wife, kids everything you should need to make you happy. The thing that's making you sad is shopping why do it?? Have will power. P.S I used to be a little addicted to caffine but I broke it.

Susan Nole said at March 10, 2006 12:07 PM:

I would like to know the name of this drug you are talking about. I think I have, and my family thinks I have this disorder. Please help.

Jo Green said at May 19, 2006 6:48 AM:

Im from the UK and am suffering from this disorder too. I have been to the doctors and put on Seroxat, it has had no effect. I was sent to councilling and it nearly ended in suicide. Im afraid in the UK this addiction is not really taken seriously. I have contacted a lady in the London called Adrienne Baker. She has written a book called "Serious Shopping" She has group sessions and councilling down in London but I live up north near Blackpool, however I e-mailed her for advise and she has invited me to go to London to meet her, have a chat then continue coucelling over the phone! Its really worth a try. I am in serious debt and cant even manage to pay my minimum payments on my Visa cards! If anyone would like to contact me with any further advise, please do. I am off work for the next two weeks and wont be back in till the 5th June 06.
Thanks for listening!

Lisa Gotkowski said at March 9, 2007 2:22 PM:

My husband has a serious addiction to shopping. He has boxes and boxes of clothes and shoes as well as sunglasses and electronics. I'm truly at my wits end. He displays other obsessive compulsive symptoms such as checking rituals,feelings of impending doom if he doesn't complete his checks, a shower ritual that takes at least 1 hour every evening. I don't think that it has affected his work yet but it is really starting to affect our relationship. He buys things and hides the items he has purchased and the receipts, I know he's doing it and I don't say anything to prevent an argument. The problem is that I hold in my feelings become more and more angry myself and then feel a great deal of resentment toward him. He has run our line of credit to the max and although the balances of our credit cards is paid each month I don't know how much longer it will remain that way with no line of credit to cover the monthly bills.

c Capiaux said at September 8, 2007 10:29 PM:

My husband also has this addiction and we are not far from getting a divorce. We have been together for 16 years and it started about a year and half ago. I have no living room no back yard or drive way. The only 2 rooms he has not taken over is the bathroom and our bedroom. He says he is going to sell them but Im the one who has to sell them. The last garage sale we had I did everything while he went out shopping. Were not in debt yet and our house is almost payed off. But how long will that last. I have no credit cards he has them all. He has been lying to me about where he is so I put a GPS in the car and found out. From one GW to another and one target to another. I just dont know what to do. Im starting to dislike him very much. My husband use to enjoy sports and he did not even know football started on Thursday. I wish I knew how to help him.

Sam said at December 9, 2007 5:03 AM:

I am happy to know that I am not the only man in the world with such urge to buy electronic .I am a pharmacist like to buy the most recent electronics use them one or two days then ......you konw .Please send me emails if you have a plan to make a group...

Have a nice shopping.

Joseph said at November 18, 2009 11:04 AM:

Dear fellow compulsive shoppers, friends, and family,

My name is Joseph and I am producing a new documentary film aimed to raise awareness of compulsive shopping and shopoholism in America.

Both I and the film's director are recovering compulsive shoppers. I know the feeling of having an uncontrollable urge to shop and consume to fill something within, but only to be left with an emptiness at the end of the day. We seek to bring to light both the psychological and cultural forces that have brought about our epidemic of compulsive shopping. What is it that drives us to fill our lives with "things?"

We are searching for someone who would feel comfortable in front of a camera, and would like to share with us the motivations behind their shopping.

If you would like to raise awareness of the issue by sharing your story in our film, we would love it if you could send us some information about yourself - your name, age & general area of residence, as well as some insight into your situation. How does compulsive shopping affect your day-to-day life? Are you stuck in a cycle of shopping to make yourself feel better? Does compulsive shopping hold your life back through debt, or other financial obstacles? Has the ritual of shopping replaced other, more productive or personally beneficial activities you may have previously participated in?

Please just let me know if you feel you may want to participate.

Thank you so much and best of luck!

Bob Badour said at November 18, 2009 5:13 PM:


You did not include any contact information.

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