The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Yikes! Not just women, men are shopaholics too
- Study debunks popular notion, reveals nearly equal number of compulsive buyers among both sexes

New Delhi, Sept. 30: Men, it’s time to stop pointing fingers at women for addiction to shopping.

Challenging the widespread notion that most shopaholics are women, a study has revealed nearly equal rates of compulsive buying disorder in men and women.

The first large study to assess the prevalence of this disorder conducted by researchers at Stanford University in the US has found that 6 per cent women and 5.5 per cent of men had symptoms of compulsive buying disorder.

Until now, the prevailing notion was that 90 per cent of compulsive buyers were women. Compulsive buying disorder is marked by an irresistible and often senseless impulse to buy large quantities of unwanted, unnecessary items ranging from clothes to cosmetics to stationery.

In one extreme case, a psychiatrist in India said, a patient displayed a compulsion to buy property.

“The widespread opinion that most compulsive buyers are women may be wrong,” Lorrin Koran, emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, and colleagues said in a paper to be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Koran said the similar rates of compulsive buying disorders in men and women was a surprise. “The difference that we observed between the prevalence in women and men is quite small and contrasts with the marked difference reported in clinical trials, in which women constituted 80 to 95 per cent of the participants,” the Stanford University researchers have said.

“Compulsive buying leads to serious psychological, financial and family problems, including depression, overwhelming debt and the breakup of relationships,” Koran said. “People don’t realise the extent of damage it does to the sufferer.”

Psychiatrists in India said they have encountered compulsive buying disorders in both men and women, but it’s usually diagnosed with other obsessive compulsive conditions such as alcoholism.

“There has been no formal study here, but I think we’re seeing compulsive buying disorder more frequently now than we did some years ago,” said Veena Kapoor, a psychiatrist and family counsellor in New Delhi. “It’s not surprising. People have more money, credit cards and enticing malls,” she said.

However, they said, compulsive buying disorder is usually not diagnosed in India as a standalone condition. “Patients in India usually seek psychotherapy only when something is perceived as a serious problem,” said Rajesh Nagpal, a consultant psychiatrist in New Delhi. Compulsive buying needs to be addressed by a mix of drug therapy and psychotherapy, he said.

The Stanford study also found that compulsive buyers were younger and more likely to have lower incomes. Compulsive buyers were also four times as likely as other respondents to make only the minimum payment on credit card balances.

The study was based on a random-sample telephone survey, interviewing over 2500 adults seeking information about behaviour and demographic data.

A spokesperson for a credit card company in India said it had no data on differential spending patterns between men and women.

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