Antidepressant helps alleviate compulsive shopping disorder, Stanford researchers find

July 16, 2003

STANFORD, Calif. - While a trip to the mall may mean a cute sweater or new CD for most of us, it has ominous implications for the thousands of Americans who suffer from compulsive shopping disorder, a condition marked by binge shopping and subsequent financial hardship. Now Stanford University Medical Center researchers have found that a drug commonly prescribed as an antidepressant may be able to curb the uncontrollable shopping urges.

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.

"Patients said to me, 'I go to the shopping mall with my friends and I don't buy anything. I can't believe it and they can't believe it,'" reported Koran. "They've been doing this for decades and now their urge to shop is gone."

Aside from the significant improvement in many patients, Koran said he was most amazed by the amount of time it took for patients to notice a difference in their behavior. "Patients improved within one or two weeks," he said. "I've never seen anything like it. No disorder I've treated has reacted like this."

Koran said future studies are needed on the effectiveness of this drug and other SSRIs in treating the disorder. He is currently enrolling patients for a similar study using escitalopram, a new type of antidepressant that appears to have fewer side effects than others. Those interested in volunteering for the study can call Stanford's Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders Research Program at 650-725-5180.
-end-
Koran's co-authors include Helen Chuong, MS, research coordinator; Kim Bullock, MD, staff physician; and S. Christine Smith, MD, staff physician. The study was supported by a grant from Forest Laboratories, Inc, which manufactures citalopram.

MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle Brandt, 650-723-0272 (mbrandt@stanford.edu)
BROADCAST MEDIA CONTACT: M.A. Malone, 650-723-6912 (mamalone@stanford.edu)

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication & Public Affairs at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

Stanford University Medical Center

Related Antidepressant Articles from Brightsurf:

Antidepressant may prevent severe COVID-19, trial suggests
The antidepressant fluvoxamine appears to prevent COVID-19 infections from worsening and may help keep patients out of the hospital, a trial based on research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Trajectories of antidepressant medication use during pregnancy
In an analysis of women who started pregnancy when taking antidepressant medications, investigators identified three trajectories of antidepressant dispensing during pregnancy: more than half stopped their treatment, a quarter maintained their treatment throughout pregnancy, and one-fifth discontinued it for a minimum of three months and then resumed it during the postpartum period.

Decades-old antidepressant may fend off prostate cancer's return
An antidepressant from the '50s, repurposed to fight prostate cancer, lowered PSA levels in men with recurrent disease, pilot study shows.

Researchers say extended antidepressant use creates physical dependence
Researchers explain symptoms associated with Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome and provide a schedule for tapering various classes of antidepressants.

Number of depressed over-65s unchanged but antidepressant use soars
The proportion of people aged over 65 on antidepressants has more than doubled in two decades -- according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.

Antidepressant medications appear to be generally safe
Antidepressants are generally safe, according to a new study by an international team of researchers.

Why is ketamine an antidepressant?
Delving deep inside the neural circuitry of 'depressed' mice, researchers have revealed how ketamine works in cells to achieve its fast-acting antidepressant effect.

Childhood methylphenidate treatment predicts antidepressant use during adolescence
A new, 12-year longitudinal study, which monitored 6,830 children from early childhood into adolescence, has shown that consistent treatment with MPH-based medications during childhood increases the risk of antidepressant use during adolescence.

Antidepressant could stop deadly sepsis, study suggests
An antidepressant drug used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder could save people from deadly sepsis, new research suggests.

Overprescribing of antidepressant medications may be common in elderly patients
In a Pharmacology Research & Perspectives study of individuals living in Olmsted County, Minnesota from 2005-2012, potential overprescribing of antidepressant medications occurred in nearly one-quarter of elderly residents.

Read More: Antidepressant News and Antidepressant Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.