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Citalopram Treatment of Compulsive Shopping: An Open-Label Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63:704-708

Background: Compulsive shopping, a DSM-IV impulse-control disorder not otherwise specified, is characterized by preoccupation with shopping and inability to resist buying unneeded items, with resulting marked distress, social or occupational impairment, and financial and/or familial problems. Because an open-label trial suggested that fluvoxamine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is effective for this disorder, we tested the effectiveness of the SSRI citalopram.

Method: We enrolled adults meeting formal diagnostic criteria (as defined by McElroy and colleagues) in a 12-week open-label trial. We excluded subjects with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or dependence, or psychotic disorders. Citalopram treatment was begun at 20 mg/day and increased every 2 weeks by 20 mg/day, absent marked response and limiting side effects, to 60 mg/day. At endpoint, all subjects were asked to give written informed consent for follow-up telephone interviews at 3-month intervals for 12 months.

Results: We enrolled 24 subjects, 22 women and 2 men, whose mean±SD age was 43.7±8.1 years; most had been shopping compulsively for 2 decades or more. Citalopram (mean±SD endpoint dose=35.4±21.4 mg/day) produced rapid, marked, sustained improvements on both the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale-Shopping Version and the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement (CGI-I) scale in subjects with and without comorbid conditions. Seventeen subjects (71%) were responders, achieving ratings of much or very much improved on the CGI-I, including 2 of the 3 subjects who discontinued for adverse events (sedation or agitation). During a 6-month follow-up period, those continuing citalopram therapy were less likely to relapse than those discontinuing the medication.

Conclusion: Citalopram appears to be a safe and effective treatment for compulsive shopping. Acute and long-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of citalopram and other SSRIs for the treatment of this disorder are indicated.

†Deceased