The results of a long-awaited and large-scale prevalence study were published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. Professor Larry Koran headed the study, a telephone survey conducted with a random sample of approximately 2500 Americans. According to the results, 6.0% of American women and 5.5% of American men scored in the compulsive buying range on a valid and reliable screening instrument. The prevalence is quite significant, suggesting that we have some seventeen and a quarter million overshoppers in America, and the almost identical gender distribution is quite noteworthy: in previous, smaller-scale studies, most of the compulsive buyers were women.
In the same AJP issue, an editorial argued that compulsive buying belongs in the next revision of the DSM in a proposed new category called behavioral and substance addictions. The editors justified their contention on these bases: first, compulsive buying represents a sizable group suffering distress and/or functional impairment; and second, it’s more prevalent or similar to other disorders that get much more research and clinical attention. We’re beginning to see news reports of compulsive buyers who are being treated in residential centers, suggesting that within the mental health community, the condition is being taken more and more seriously.