For many people, retail therapy can be a remedial buzz. Until, that is, the spending rush takes hold and shopping becomes an addiction, writes Natasha Gilbert.
Now, researchers from Stanford University in the US claim to have found a cure for this consumer illness.
In a study of compulsive shoppers, Lorrin Koran and his colleagues at the department of psychiatry and behavioural sciences found that sufferers were much more able to control their binge shopping urges when they took the antidepressant citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
"I am very excited about the dramatic response from people who have suffered for decades," Professor Koran said. "My hope is that people with this disorder will become aware that it is treatable."
Sufferers of compulsive shopping disorder have a preoccupation with shopping for unnecessary items and lack the ability to resist such purchases. One participant of Professor Koran's study had bought more than 55 cameras.
Professor Koran said: "Compulsive shopping leads to serious psychological, financial and family problems, including depression, overwhelming debt and the break-up of relationships."
In the first half of the study, 23 women and one man, most of whom had engaged in compulsive shopping for at least a decade, took citalopram for seven weeks.
Fifteen of them responded to the treatment. Over a further seven weeks, half of these 15 patients continued to take the antidepressant and the other half were administered a placebo.
Neither group knew whether they were taking the medication or the placebo.
The citalopram group continued to see a rapid decrease in symptoms. In contrast, 63 per cent of patients taking the placebo relapsed.
Professor Koran was amazed at the speed and efficiency of the drug.
"Patients improved within one or two weeks," he said. "No disorder I have treated has reacted like this".
This study is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology .