Antidepressants and Compulsive Shopping

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December 4, 2012 | 29 Comments


  1. It’s very strange … these same drugs have been recommended as a treatment for compulsive shopping, and other problems labeled as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. And I guess they work at least for some of the people some of the time. But mania or hypomania can also lead to shopping sprees. And the doctors have NO excuse not to know that antidepressants can make some people manic. That’s been written up often, and even publicized for awhile by some drug companies who saw a future in relabeling patients as bipolar. If you went manic after taking an SSRI, it just meant you were a hidden “bipolar” and should be glad the drug smoked you out in time.

    Dysfunctional shopping in the USA is a complicated thing. We shop when we’re depressed and have low self-esteem; we shop when we’re manic and think we’re terrific. We shop to celebrate with friends, we shop when we’re bored and lonely. And we shop because we’re told to. In order to know why a given patient was messing up her life with irrational shopping you would have to talk to that person, get to know her and her history. But how many psychiatrists are doing that anymore? They have largely contracted out the job of talking to patients to non-medical counselors, and often do not even know the contractor. In many cases there is none, and the patient is utterly on their own.

    That’s what is making shrinks, more so than almost any other doctors, such effective (and hazardous) risk-launderers, I believe — and so radically compromised by their prescribing privileges. They have given up every other function; most would have to send you down the hall to get your blood pressure or weight. If not for the prescription pad, they would literally have nothing.

    • Here is another example of this disorder. Members of my family were asking me for loans. I was giving out thousands of dollars. And then I would forgive the loans.

      My psychiatrist was terrible. All he did for 8 years was shove more and more antidepressants down my throat. I finally fired him and my next psychiatrist weaned me off of everything so we could start over. once the drugs were out system, that compulsion went away.

      Boy, I was pissed.

  2. Joanna I don’t agree totally with your comment that SSRIS only make people manic who are hidden bi-polar, from first hand experience I can say they energized me much more than normal and made me do things without a care in the world but that doesn’t mean I’m bi-polar. Thank god my GP saw sense and said I wasn’t bi-polar otherwise God knows what drugs I would be on now, he said they have stimulant effects on some people but it doesn’t mean they’re all bi-polar and I agree with him, both my friends also got energized and crazy on them and they are not bi-polar either they are quite normal off SSRIS. SSRIS can make people who are not bi-polar high as well especially when you drink on them. That’s my theory anyway from first hand experience.

    • I totally agree, Anne-Marie! What I was trying to say (apparently not very well) was that some drug companies were pushing the theory that mania or hypomania induced by their drugs only meant the patient had been bipolar all along.

      I think the whole idea is baloney — they were only pushing this line to promote their own commercial interests, and to shield themselves from legal trouble from the damage caused by this side effect.

      Drop on in at, and you will find lots of people who had the same experience with Adderall and other stimulants. Suffering from a drug side-effect, they were told instead that they were bipolar.

      • Hi. I support Ann-Marie in her comments. SSRI/SNRI therapy cost me dearly in more wys than I can count. Three years after beginning the withdrawal process, I display no signs of hypomania, the condition that drove me to move house very few months, buy things I did not need and could not afford and engage in shameful behaviours that I won’t recount here.
        When I look back – as much as I am still affected by tardive dyskinesa/tardive dystonia – I can not relate to “that woman”; the person I was for almost two decades. I did not display hypomania before going on SSRIs, nor do I experience it now. But a warning: SSRI/SNRI withdrawal can – and does – throw many people into full-blown mania. For months, I painted, drew and wrote all day and well into the night. I painted six-foot tall anemones on the bedroom wall, redecorated (oh so badly!) the house several times. My medical notes include the word “manic” yet no one did anything to help.
        And a note: Please, if you experienced any kind of medication-induced movement disorder or know people who have, leave a reply or report it on RxISK. Much here is devoted to suicide – and rightfully so – but this condition alone drove me perilously close to the edge.

        • Oh my, thank you! I have been searching the web for people who have had impulsive behaviors after taking an SSRI. Since being on them for probably 12 years I have engaged in gambling, sexual behaviors I never would have done before, risky financial decisions, alcohol and drug abuse. I asked my psychiatrist and she said I should be on ADHD medicine due to my impulsive behaviors. I never had those problems before being on these medications! I KNOW that they are the reason I did all of those horrible things. It helps to know someone else had the same thing happen to them!

          • It pains me to know that along with so many others… I have suffered tremendous financial loss due to compulsive gambling after I started taking Zoloft. I was diagnosed with OCD, Bipolar Depression, Anxiety and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I was put on several drugs over a few years… until I ended up with Zoloft from my Psychiatrist. I impulsively quit a 23 + year career with my employer. I spent all of my retirement savings including cashing in my 401k early and suffering huge tax penalties. I became addicted to gambling! It’s ruined my life! 2 divorces and 2 bankruptcies! I was so depressed I attempted suicide! I began abusing alcohol to self medicate. I drove from Michigan to Arizona straight through only stopping for gas and food…no sleep! 2200 miles! Who does that? It was insanely dangerous but I couldn’t stop! I still gamble compulsively and its all I think about! I lost the love and affection and relationships with my children who have estranged themselves and my grand children from me for years now. I was not invited to my own daughter’s wedding and have never been able to meet my 3 grand children. Sad. Just sad! I’m miserable and depressed so I continue the same drugs just to cope the best I can! The same drugs that are supposed to be helping me…have destroyed me! There must be some recourse and accountability for destroying people’s lives! Does anyone know a good attorney with experience in this area of personal injury? Anyone? I can’t and won’t go on anymore like this! I’m 52 having to live with my parents because of my financial decisions and harmful actions. This has been going on for 16 miserable years. I cannot go on much longer!!! Help!!!

          • Yes , I have made a huge mess . So compulsive it’s crazy . To go without the meds I’m way outta balance . With them
            Compulsive shopper , gambler it’s ridiculous . I feel shame and embarrassment .

          • I am so glad to see what you wrote Rachel, I don’t feel so alone. I too have done things I am not proud of and I know deep in my heart that antidepressants did this to me. I have thrown away a man I loved and made my life miserable. I think today I may have even lost my job due to poor judgement and I feel so helpless.

          • You are not alone. I am feeling the same way about SSRI’s. I developed a compulsive gambling problem which would be unusual for me. Once when I ran out of Cymbalta after taper. I did not feel compulsive at all or get thoughts about gambling. When I started new prescription about 2 mos later the gambling thoughts gradually returned. These thoughts don’t just go away either. Even if you push the negative thoughts to the back burner, they lurk beneath the surface. I began to suspect my antidepressant may be causing this very undesirable side effect. Although this medicine helps my mood, I know I can’t stay on it. I’m going to try an alternative. I have a connective tissue disorder, Lupus. I really wish the powers that be, would allow the TRUTH to be known to all people taking SSRI’s. Any type of compulsive behavior is scary because at the time your engaging in it, you can’t stop. Regarding credit cards, I did that too. Kept applying or ordering more and more. I knew it was crazy! Couldn’t stop. I feel better now that I know there are other folks out there that have gone thru the same thing. Lawsuits no doubt may someday be on the horizon but what about now? I’m gonna amp up my exersise and try to find some alternative! Stay strong!

  3. I had several forms of Prozac prescribed for me just over two years ago.
    They made me sick, gain a great deal of weight which I have as yet been unable to uloose the drug seems to have totally upset my metabolism and has left me with a almst uncontrolable desire for sugar, and this is the cause of further depressive thought.
    Nothing was explained to me to expect this as I am not used to taking any medication at all except for HRT, which has also caused me problems.

  4. Two people I love dearly were horrible affected by an SNRI. One was depressed by a breakup with his fiancee and by long hours at college/work. His GP put him on effexor. On effexor he had horrible rages that made him want to hurt people and animals. Fortunately he quit the drug but had after-effects that caused him to give up on college. The other person dear to me has been on high dose effexor for more than 15 years. He can no longer hold a job. His doc says he is bipolar now. His erratic (and selfish) behaviors have pushed his family and friends away. Being around people irritates him. Now he abuses alcohol and drugs. His bipolar diagnosis got him on disability but his assets are being used up. Why would anyone stay on a drug that causes daily nausea, vomitting, headaches, weeping, irritbility, body aches, and both insomnia and hyper-sleep as well as fear of leaving the house? And makes you want to harm people and animals?

  5. This happened to me, not with SSRIs but with strong painkillers after a serious injury. I have now gone off them and realise what I have done. I don’t know what to do. Beware everyone this can happen to you!!!!

  6. I agree with Joanne, Anne Marie and Lindy. As a lay person, it’s bewildering.

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of twenty three/four after an episode/s of drug induced mania when I was prescribed Seroxat in 1999/2001 (before any warnings whatsoever) and for stress at work! I too went gung ho, hell for leather – suddenly sexually promiscuous, shoplifting, amassing debt I am still paying off, doing all sorts of ‘crazy’ things (including almost killing an elderly man under the delusion I could drive), and raised total havoc on my life. In terms of ‘switching’ from major depression or episodes of major depression, I wasn’t depressed and I had never suffered from depression before – a teenage broken heart maybe, or sadness – quickly passing – but not clinical depression.

    This was followed by the shock of my first brutal experience of ‘depression’ (and what I call ‘violent’ suicidal depression) in unwitting cold turkey withdrawal on my first leg of a round the world trip (booked when manic, having given up my then career and Postgraduate course) and to my eternal regret, knowing no better, soon resulting in another SSRI prescription. Previously generally happy and mentally well, either despite or because of follow up SSRIS, panic attacks, severe anxiety and depression then became regular features in my life, then chronic. I haven’t been able to work in a classroom for years (so easily startled, anxiety set off). In withdrawal from fifteen years of a follow up SNRI and SSRIS, I became so physically debilitated, I felt I finally had to apply for Sickness Benefit.

    I had almost totally forgotten that I had once been diagnosed and treated as being bipolar and Type 2 until I requested my medical records – struggling, off the tranquilising spell of SSRIS, to make sense of what happened to me. Fifteen years later, having never suffered from mania or hypomania before Seroxat or since (on or off follow up SSRIS), I went to see my psychiatrist today to better inform him of my medical history as he didn’t appear to have medical notes from that time in my life (as I had long assumed my present practice had) and to request a re-evaluation.

    A lovely man, he is the first doctor or psychiatrist who didn’t give me ‘the look’ and who seemed aware somewhat aware, as I wasn’t years ago, of the possible adverse effects of these drugs. Though not quite convinced that my former ‘anorexia’ (I didn’t have a problem with food) and a sudden start and stop drinking problem when prescribed Effexor in my second withdrawal from Seroxat (which may have exacerbated my suicide ideations; culminating in an unpremeditated suicide attempt I’m told I should haven’t survived) could possibly have been linked with the drug. In his wisdom, according to revised guidelines (the new DSM IVV), I am still a sufferer of bipolar disorder. Officially. And I am trying to make a case against GSK (by, hopefully, re-joining the group action case under new legal representation).

    To some psychiatrists in their expertise, this may well make sense. It makes no sense to me. Or to any bipolar friends – who just take the piss!

  7. In my case, I began gambling compulsively and contacted my GP. I am hypomanic quite naturally. In fact, shortly after beginning treatment with Lamotrigine, it wasn’t enough in such a small dose and I began transitioning into full blown mania. My GP and I decided to go with depressants in an attempt to mitigate the amount of norepinephrine, noradrenaline, and dopamine I was overproducing. SSRI’s would have sent me from the stratosphere into low Earth orbit. You can only chase dopamine so far before it becomes neurologically dangerous. I work in a high pressure environment so my problems begin with the Locus Coeruleus, (fight or flight), then to the Ventral Tegmental Area where dopamine is synthesized and carried to the Nucleus Accumbens, (the pleasure center), and released into the Nucleus Accumbens Shell, which is also considered part of the extended amygdala. When the amygdala is active, the Medial Prefrontal Cortex sends a signal back to the shell in order to regulate the amount of dopamine being released into the shell where it impacts dopamine receptors. I am taking high doses of depressants and 80mg of Prozac to buffer the dopamine in the NAcc, and going to hypnotherapy. Meds alone will not be the solution, seek help from family and friends, as well as your physician.

  8. I just went through a $53k bankruptcy…and I am retired.
    Left my Husband for another guy I had know many many years. It effected me so much emotionally that my Dr. prescribed Cymbalta. I ran up cards to over $30k and refinanced to pay them off. Turned around and did it again…only $53k this time.

    I need to go grocery shopping today and I am afraid to leave the house. Afraid to spend the money. Sick to my stomach.

    Not sure what to do. Should I just ween myself off the Cymbalta? I don’t even have a Dr. right now…He had a stroke and isn’t back to work yet. I know if I stop taking Cymbalta I will become a nervous wreck and a bitch to live with. I was prior to. I take after my Mom so much, it’s scary. She was an alcoholic…something I fought very hard not to become…I was successful, but apparently replaced with food, shopping, and sex. 64 years old and I can’t get my shit together….

    • Mia. I feel your pain. I have been taking Cymbalta for years now after a lose of a very special friend. And the loss of both parents. All with-in a years time.
      And suffered all ready from daily pain of a spinal cord injury. Due to Auto accident where I was rear ended. 5 surgery’s were done on me for that.
      I had been a very outstanding citizen all my life, helping people, children and animals to be the best they can be. Raised a wonderful family.
      But after taking Cymbalta for my personally changed. Be came more self absorbed and was arrested for shop-lifting 3 times? And got in credit card card.
      Help came by way of jail. Still awaiting trial for that. Still suffering from a lot of pain, the cymbalta helped alittle with it. But going to jail way out ways the little help it gave me.

  9. Could SSRI’s also trigger/worsen this same compulsive-type behaviour in some individuals, but instead as a pornography addiction?

  10. Mine was destined for failure. I had managed to build my credit score up to 821. Had hardly any debt. Then I want on sertraline ( zoloft). Now I owe five thousand to Amazon, two thousand to walmart, eleven thousand to my bank.
    About twenty thousand dollars in debt on nothing. Shoes, suits, bicycles, camping equipment, etc. I guess I’ll put on an Armani suit and ride my bicycle to the campground. I feel so stupid. It took litterally years to build my credit score. Now it’s 651 and I am beyond broke. I worry all the time. Two years ago I had over 4k in savings and No credit card debt.

    • Well, at least you’re funny; “I guess I’ll put on an Armani suit and ride my bicycle to the campground”. After reading all of these depressing ass post, not to mention my own shitty life which lead me to this site, you literally made me laugh out loud!!!

      Seriously tho, Idk what the fuck is wrong with me…. and i say that because I started having existential depressing thoughts when I was 14 mixed with intermittent “normal” thoughts and hypomanic thoughts since and I’m pushing 40!!! l always thought it was the Adderal (I was diagnosed YEARS ago by a psychologist, took over 2 hours of test, had symptoms my entire life… I guess I feel the need to “prove” I actually have ADD because so many people are (seemingly) over prescribed) and maybe because I’ve gained 10lbs the adderal doesnt have me doing the things I typically wouldn’t do but after reading these posts and putting it all into perspective, maybe it IS the SSRI. I’ve been taking welbutrin for years and never got manic from it, taking add meds off and on for years, but took my first SSRI vibbryd bc I heard it didn’t cause weight gain. It would take me an hour to write my psy history plus I don’t want to get too personal here anyway, but I thank you guys for your honesty and want you to know you’re not alone. It’s so fucked up too. And tbh I don’t even know if it’s the drug companies fault per se. I think the docs should do a better job of monitoring us when we start these meds, even if they aren’t controlled meds, also docs should be more knowledgable. Someone earlier wrote that when they told their doc they were having probs with compulsive spending, sex etc the doc put them on ADD meds because they were compulsive. I’m not a doc and even I know that that will only make matters worse. ADD drugs increase dopamine! wtf. anyway… idk what the answer is… it’s a horrible existing living with depression and anxiety; it’s hard for people to understand. We’re not lazy, it’s so much more than that and it takes SO MUCH ENERGY, mental energy even, to just live like everyone else does.

  11. My life has been turned into a nightmare. My depression and lack of self confidence improved along with my ability to do my job and keep an organized home but I am buried in debt from compulsive gambling and spending since starting on generic Effexor, to the point of almost losing my home. Neither my Internist nor a psychiatrist or my family believed me that I felt that this could be triggered by this drug. I was switched to Celexa but this did not help my depression and because I was risking losing my job I switched back to Venlafaxine. BIG MISTAKE! I do not know where to turn!

  12. Scary. I went off SSRIs because of the side effects and they did nothing to help the symptoms I complained of. I was told side effecrs were really rare. HA. Also that I just needed to try a different one and to not research them online because they’re all horror stories and all made up. Yea because I’m going to trust what a psych nurse says. If it weren’t for these awful drugs, she wouldn’t have a job.

  13. Hey everyone thank you so much for your brave posts. I am really sad to hear how life has been going but sadly also really happy and reassured that I am not alone. Finding info on the links between anti depressive medication and compulsive shopping has been really hard to come by but here you guys are. Thank you again for sharing and giving me a much needed life line xxx

  14. Has anyone found a way to stop the shopping shopping shopping?? Now add the words broke and hoarder to describe my issues. I have a house full of great crap, bought multiples of everything. Was a financially responsible human most of my life. Now broke and broken. Currently taking Wellbutrin and Cymbalta. I think that I am doing well but it’s an illusion. Been on this bum trip for over 25+ years.

    • I was prescribed lexapro for my breakdown and severe anxiety. That was 5 months ago. I began opening credit cards w no job. I’m now 10,000 in debt. My marriage is on the rocks. I’m miserable but w no anxiety. What am I supposed to do? I wonder if I was misdiagnosed or is it the meds?

  15. I agree with all. In 2000 I started Effexor and have been taking Norco for migraines for 25+ years. I have attempted suicide twice and lost my job due to poor judgment, spent my entire 401k, ran up credit card debt, and I am still on meds for depression, anxiety and migraines.

    Who can I sue? First doctor died three years ago current doctor goes along with my history. I just put two &two together to figure out suicide, spending money and whatever else are side affects from my meds!

  16. I used to pinch a penny until Lincoln screamed. About 30 yrs ago, I was put on Prozac, and it opened up my world so much, I felt like a different person. I felt happy. I began taking vacations, learned ballroom dancing and began living my life. The increase in spending just seemed like a natural result of going from no life to a life. I lost a lot of weight and began to buy new clothes because I was so confident about my body, and I just wanted to shout, ‘hey, look at me!’ I’d never wanted to be looked at before because of pervasive shame that began in childhood. I actually liked myself for the first time in my life! I deserved to treat myself to pleasurable things and activities that I’d been denied because of social anxiety disorder and debilitating panic attacks that began at age 12. Those things cost money! Everyone else gave themselves these treats! Now it was my turn. It was an investment in myself! All of it built upon the confidence the Prozac gave me and I was growing by leaps and bounds.

    Until I wasn’t. The ‘honeymoon’ with Prozac ended after about 4 yrs, and I tried numerous other SSRI’s, trying to recapture what I was beginning to lose, only to end up back on Prozac again because even though it had pooped out on me, it was still better than any of the others I’d tried. I wasn’t feeling inspired and loving life as I had during my honeymoon with Prozac. But one thing remained. A tormenting compulsion to spend that was fueled by QVC and HSN, which I watched addictively. They could make me ‘need’ stuff I’d never even heard of before, and soon I’d be on the phone charging a $200 14k garnet bracelet on three Easy Payments.

    It took about 15 yrs of wasting my time in front of the TV and my paycheck on crap I didn’t need before I stopped watching and ‘got clean.’ The craving—at least for that—was gone. But I didn’t stop spending money—I just changed what I spent it on. It dogs me to this day, even as I enter my 4th yr of unemployment. I feel soul sick as I place the orders but I can’t stop.

    It was only in the last month that I learned that SSRIs could cause compulsive spending. Before I got on it, I had nothing and I spent nothing, other than making my car payments so I could hold down a job. Then the spending began after I’d started the Prozac. I’d always thought that had been ‘good’ spending because it all helped support my recovery, and the things I spent it on gave me real happiness—not just a momentary high, followed by a crash. But what it it was the beginnings of the compulsive spending that threatens to destroy me financially at this very moment? I switched some time ago from Prozac to Effexor because they both felt the same, but Effexor didn’t cause weight gain. I know I can never get off it because the withdrawal never ends, and the constant brain zaps are horrific, as well as the sudden bouts of sobbing and the rage attacks that nearly cost me my job the last time I tried going off. I have facial tremors and tremors in my hands and fingers that are permanent. I don’t think my brain is capable of even returning to what it was pre-Prozac. I struggle every single day WITH the Effexor, just as I did pre-Prozac, because ‘my brain on drugs’ has become my baseline after 30 yrs of it. If I didn’t have the Effexor, I’d descend into a hell, the likes of which I’d never even known existed.

    One thing about this article that bothered me was the plug for ‘tough love.’ That’s old school, and it can do more harm than good. People who suffer from this condition also suffer from extreme shame, and tough love is internalized as shame. And shame only perpetuates the addictive cycle, because shame is pain, and spending is usually the only way we know to drown out that pain.

  17. well this is interesting,
    Similar stories I don’t know whether to be relieved or dismayed. on Cipralex and wellbutrin for 5 years when my job became too stressful, and developed a super compulsion for gambling. in the end lost a relationship of 24 years over gambling, and about $200K. Ive now moved on to a shopping addiction/ near hoarding/ overbuying, buying multiples, amazon and every delivery guy knows me by name. Sickening. While I seemingly kicked gambling before the covid lockdown, (what a relief since casinos here in canada have been closed for a year +) I’ve just replaced it with another compulsion. Online shopping and inline auctions Buying shit I dont need. and more, and multiples, and crap. so f ing disgusting. im retired and have no income im doing this on RRSPs (401K s to the US ppl)
    This is strange though, I’m here because my Dr moved to another province and i ran out of my cipralex prescription about 4 or 5 days ago, and while i just got a teleprescription today im now rethinking it. Ive felt the best I’ve felt in a while. Im not sure if im delusionsal, or onto something. I think I’Il hold off getting it filled. and see how it goes.

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