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Soc Sci Med. 2004 May;58(9):1709-18.

The medicalization of compulsive buying.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Fletcher Argue Building, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2.


Compulsive buying has recently been the subject of numerous articles from both consumer research and psychiatric perspectives. Identified by some researchers as a compulsion and by others as an addiction, common solutions to the problem have included drug treatments, participation in self-help groups and cognitive behaviour therapy. The purpose of this article is to examine critically the labelling of compulsive buying in terms of medicalization from the perspective of both medical and non-medical social control of "deviant" consumers. We suggest that the attempt to categorize compulsive buying as an illness represents the ongoing trend to medicalize behavioural problems which may be better understood within the wider context of related phenomena such as the fiscal crisis of the 1980s and 1990s and the consumption-driven economy of North America.

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