Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough -Shopping is the act of buying goods and/or services which are purchases made from necessity, because we want/desire something, for others, and/or for emotional relief. Retail therapy is the act of shopping for that emotional relief to help improve distress and/or mood. This type of shopping occurs during times when a person might be feeling depressed, are going through a transition, for celebratory/reward reasons, or because some trigger has warranted feeling comfort by making purchases.
Because we live in a world where practically everything is at our fingertips, instant, emotionally based shopping has become more and more popular. Some of us still like to go browse the stores and look through selections. Some of us like to look at catalogs and buy from there. Others like to look online and click to buy what they want. It can be soothing and uplifting to know that some material possession is soon to be yours.
Retail therapy doesn’t have to be a “guilty pleasure”, rather, it can make you feel empowered to have taken this self-care measure that you enjoy. Retail therapy releases those positive endorphins that are neurotransmitters communicating to our brain the pleasurable feeling that shopping has created. The shopping even releases dopamine that makes you feel good.
Seems like no harm, no foul to go ahead and buy something that makes you happier. However, compulsive shopping and the risk of spending money not in your budget can make this act of pleasure something you might end up regretting. Making instant gratification buys can easily happen, but this can only be on occasion. Retail therapy is totally fine when you are in control of your spending. The trouble is that shopping addiction affects 6-8% of shoppers. It can take willpower to not get an item you want, and to always stay aware you don’t need something or that the cost is not right for means. It’s okay to treat ourselves and we even like to treat others, but if that in-the-moment choice, we are harming our ability to provide for ourselves adequately (such as paying important bills), then we know we might need to reconsider and opt for something else.
A little retail therapy can give us a boost of confidence, spark our imagination by thinking of all the possibilities this purchase has to offer, and we can feel like we are taking control through selfcare. We shouldn’t avoid whatever transpired the shopping, and if the issue is serious, then seeking help is advisable. We also don’t want to open the gateway to compulsive shipping.
The occasional trip to the mall, visiting a site you like, or finding a deal that makes you happy, is okay. Retail therapy isn’t the answer to our problems, but sometimes a little material gain can ease the pain. Self-care isn’t selfish, and retail therapy can be used to improve someone else’s day with your gifts. Just keep in mind the balance in your account and the “costs” of retail therapy.