Researchers from University Hospital of Erlangen in Bavaria, Germany conducted a randomized trial comparing the efficacy of a group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention, designed for the treatment of compulsive buying disorder, to a wait list control (WLC) group.

Thirty-one patients with compulsive buying problems according to the criteria developed by McElroy et al. were assigned to receive active treatment (12 weekly sessions and 6-month follow-up) and 29 to the WLC group. The treatment was specifically aimed at interrupting and controlling the problematic buying behavior, establishing healthy purchasing patterns, restructuring maladaptive thoughts and negative feelings associated with shopping and buying, and developing healthy coping skills.

Primary outcome measures were the Compulsive Buying Scale (CBS), the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale-Shopping Version (YBOCS-SV), and the German Compulsive Buying Scale (G-CBS). Secondary outcome measures were the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R), the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), and the Saving Inventory-Revised (SI-R).

Multivariate analysis revealed significant differences between the CBT and the WLC groups on the primary outcome variables, and improvement was maintained during the 6-month follow-up. The treatment did not affect other psychopathology, e.g., compulsive hoarding, impulsivity, or SCL-90-R scores.  Lower numbers of visits to group therapy sessions and higher pre-treatment hoarding habits were significant predictors for nonresponse.

The results suggest that a disorder-specific cognitive-behavioral intervention can significantly impact compulsive buying behavior.

Citation: Mueller A, Mühlhans B, Silbermann A, Müller U, Mertens C, Horbach T, Mitchell JE, de Zwaan M. A randomized, controlled trial of group cognitive-behavioral therapy for compulsive buying disorder: posttreatment and 6-month follow-up results. Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol. 2008 Jul;69 (7): pages [email protected]