A pill may help shopaholics

For the Chicago Tribune.

chicago-tribune-logo-2If you can’t seem to keep yourself from running up disastrous credit card bills, the answer may lie in a pill. The antidepressant Celexa may help compulsive shoppers resist the urge to charge, say Stanford University researchers who are studying the possibility.

“Compulsive shopping is related to the general category of obsessive-compulsive disorders,” said Helen Chuong, research coordinator. “These are people who have tried to stop shopping, but they don’t have the control over it that you or I would.”

It’s understandable that an antidepressant can help treat shopaholics, said Dr. Robert Galatzer-Levy, a lecturer in psychiatry with the University of Chicago who has testified in court cases related to compulsive shopping.

“It’s a much more intense version of something that’s pretty common in our culture,” he said. “A lot of people, especially women, go shopping as a way to relieve the blues.”

Stanford’s study, however, doesn’t herald a miracle cure for strained bank accounts. Compulsive shopping may be a symptom of a larger problem, Galatzer-Levy said.

“It’s like having a sore throat. It can be a symptom of several different disorders,” he said. “Just giving someone a pill without figuring out what’s going on, and helping them through it, is almost always [an] error.”

-Etelka Lehoczky, 2003