Objective: Although compulsive buying (CB) seems to be not only prevalent but even increasing in prevalence, it often remains neglected or minimized in clinical settings. There is a need for a greater understanding and recognition of this problem. The aim of this article is to summarize the current knowledge regarding CB and to offer thoughts regarding classification.
Method: Review of published literature over the period 1994-2013 through Pubmed/Medline, PsychINFO, and Google Scholar using the key words 'compulsive buying', 'impulsive buying' and 'addictive buying'.
Results: CB is defined by a preoccupation with buying and shopping, by frequent buying episodes, or overpowering urges to buy that are experienced as irresistible and senseless. The maladaptive spending behavior is associated with serious psychological, social, occupational, and financial problems. Treatment-seeking patients with CB suffer from substantial psychiatric comorbidity (eg, anxiety and depressive mood disorders, compulsive hoarding, binge eating disorder). Representative surveys revealed prevalence estimates of CB between 6% and 7% and indicate that younger people are more prone to develop CB. Moreover, European data suggest an increase of CB in the adult population over the last 20 years. While there is no evidence for the efficacy of psychopharmacological treatment, group cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective.
Conclusion: The relevance of recognition of CB as mental disorder is undeniable in the face of its estimated prevalence and associated burden. As our understanding of contributing neurobiological and etiological factors is limited, further research should focus on these topics, taking into account the heterogeneity of individuals with CB. There is also a need for specific treatment options and for the development of prevention strategies.
© American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.