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Study of Compulsive Buying in Depressed Patients

J Clin Psychiatry 1997;58:169-173

Background: Compulsive buying is defined by the presence of repetitive impulsive and excessive buying leading to personal and familial distress. Patients with this disorder also suffer from mood disorder in 50% to 100% of the cases studied, and antidepressants help to decrease the frequency and the severity of uncontrolled buying. To define the correlation between compulsive buying and depression, we assessed this behavior among 119 inpatients answering to DSM-III-R criteria for major depressive episode. Additionally, we evaluated for comorbidity in the patients suffering from compulsive buying and in those free from this disorder. Impulsivity and sensation seeking were also compared in the two groups.

Method: Diagnosis of compulsive buying was made using standardized criteria and a specific rating scale. Diagnosis of depression and assessment of comorbidity were investigated using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview and a modified version of the Minnesota Impulsive Disorders Interview. All patients answered the Zuckerman Sensation-Seeking Scale and the Barrat Impulsivity Rating Scale.

Results: The prevalence of the disorder was 31.9%; 38 of the 119 depressed patients were diagnosed as compulsive buyers. Patients from the compulsive buying group were younger in age, more often women than men, and more frequently unmarried. They presented more often than others with recurrent depression (relative risk=1.4), disorders associated with deficits in impulse control such as kleptomania (relative risk=8.5) or bulimia (relative risk=2.8), benzodiazepine abuse or dependence disorder (relative risk=4.7), and two or more dependence disorders (relative risk=1.99). Subscores for experience seeking using the Zuckerman Sensation-Seeking Scale were significantly higher (p=.04) and scores of impulsivity were much higher (p

Conclusion: Compulsive buying is frequent among depressed patients. In most cases, the behavior is associated with other impulse control disorders or dependence disorders and a high level of impulsivity.