Compulsive buying: Descriptive characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity

Gary A Christenson, R. J. Faber, M. De Zwaan, Nancy C Raymond, S. M. Specker, M. D. Ekern, T. B. Mackenzie, R. D. Crosby, S. J. Crow, Elke D Eckert, M. P. Mussell, J. E. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Compulsive buying is infrequently described in the psychiatric literature despite suggestions that it may be prevalent. The authors investigated the demographics and phenomenology of this syndrome and assessed psychiatric comorbidity via interviews of both compulsive buyers and normal buyers. Method: Twenty-four compulsive buyers were compared with 24 age- and sex-matched normal buyers using (1) a semistructured interview for compulsive buying and impulse control disorders, (2) a modified version of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R, and (3) scales measuring compulsiveness, depression, and anxiety. Results: The typical compulsive buyer was a 36-year-old female who had developed compulsive buying at age 17 1/2 and whose buying had resulted in adverse psychosocial consequences. Purchases were usually of clothes, shoes, jewelry, or makeup, which frequently went unused. Compared with normal buyers, compulsive buyers had a higher lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and eating disorders and were more depressed, anxious, and compulsive. Among compulsive buyers, 16 (66.7%) described buying that resembled obsessive compulsive disorder, whereas 23 (95.8%) described buying that resembled an impulse control disorder. Conclusion: Compulsive buying is a definable clinical syndrome that can result in significant psychosocial impairment and which displays features of both obsessive compulsive disorder and the impulse control disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


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