Retail Therapy

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Mar 29, 2022
  • 5 min read
attractive girl shopping online sitting in a chair at her comfortable home

What is retail therapy? Have you ever felt under the weather, bought something you’ve always wanted, and instantly felt better? Well, that is exactly what retail therapy is – the act of buying something in an attempt to improve your mood. 

According to research, shopping has proven to ease feelings of sadness, drastically improve one’s mood, and is considered to be a relaxing activity for many people. There are many benefits associated with retail therapy; here, we highlight some of the main benefits. 

What Are Other Benefits of Retail Therapy?

Gaining a sense of control

Feelings of sadness are often associated with the idea that our negative situations are in control of our lives. Therefore, being able to buy what you want and when you want restores a feeling of control and autonomy for many people. 

Research has also shown the shopping decisions that people make. Help with fighting lingering sadness, frustration, and anxiety. When things are not going your way, getting what you want tends to feel like a positive personal achievement.

Visualization serves as a distraction from anxiety

Shopping is believed to stimulate our senses. The bright lights, colorful displays, and the smell of something new create an imaginative sensory experience for many people. These sensory experiences often allow people to escape reality, even for a short period of time. 

Notably, these shopping experiences translate online as well. Those perfectly merchandised and displayed online retail therapy products can get our imagination going with the idea of possibly owning them. This is when dopamine is released before the actual purchase is made.

The mood benefits of online shopping

Have you ever filed an online shopping cart and later abandoned it because you already felt satisfied? One of the main mood benefits of online shopping is that you don’t have to actually buy something to feel delight, because you have already gone on an exciting mental journey.

Interestingly, getting to spend less money on products may be even more rewarding in the long run. 

Another mood benefit of online shopping would be waiting for your recent purchase to arrive; not knowing when it will arrive increases your anticipation. 

Psychological perks of saving up

If you’re a fan of retail therapy or online retail therapy, there’s another route to consider. It can also be extremely psychologically therapeutic, especially if you save up for that purchase rather than buying something immediately with a credit card. Using anticipation by saving up for your reward often gives you something to look forward to, creating excitement.

When to Be Concerned

As much as you may enjoy shopping and the benefits that come along with it, it is important to note that when retail therapy turns into a shopping addiction, it is always problematic for many people. 

You may be wondering how to tell if you have a shopping addiction. When basic retail therapy leads to a compulsive buying disorder, which is considered to be the excessive, impulsive, and uncontrollable purchases of products in spite of the consequences associated with it. 

It is also important to note that retail therapy and compulsive buying are two different terms. Retail therapy can be controlled and done in moderation, it helps with feelings of sadness, mood swings, and anxiety, among other things. Whereas compulsive buying is uncontrolled and often requires professional assistance. 

If you are a compulsive buyer, it is never too late to start doing something about it. Online therapy is an extremely convenient, comfortable, and private way to seek help from professionals from the comfort of your home. 

What Are the Risks of Retail Therapy?

Did you know that even if you do not have a shopping addiction, you can still be at risk of getting one? Here we list some of the risks associated with retail therapy, along with some helpful tips on how to address the risks associated with it:

Retail therapy stops you from seeking professional help

When one uses shopping therapy as a way to escape their reality, they are often put at risk of overlooking the fact that they may have a serious problem and may be in need of professional help. Evidently, retail therapy has been linked to improving moods, alleviating anxiety, and the likes. However, this is only beneficial when used in moderation and when the use is excessive, it should be used as a substitute for seeking professional help. 

Retail therapy puts you at financial risk

Shopping therapy within your means is not problematic; however, when you begin spending more than you have, you put yourself at risk of debt and major financial burdens. People often use credit cards to purchase goods, especially when they are looking to fill a void within. The risk of falling into debt will heighten your problems and cause more distress in your life.

Window shopping can be problematic

Even though window shopping does not require you to spend any money, it distracts you from your real-life responsibilities. As we know, people can spend hours on their computer looking at sales on the net, while looking for the most suitable products to buy. They could also go from store to store with the same aim; however, this is time-consuming and takes you away from spending time with family, partaking in activities and the likes. 

Things to Keep in Mind

Using retail therapy from time to time to cope with everyday stress or sadness is not a bad thing. However, it is important to take note of what leads you to use retail therapy as an escape, such as having a stressful day or being sad, etc. Once these triggers are identified, keeping the following tips in mind will serve as constant reminders of how retail therapy can be beneficial – without the harms associated with it. 

Window shop first

Instead of going out to a store or visiting your favorite store's online site, try window shopping first. As previously mentioned, window shopping often provides people with the mood boost that they require without having to spend money. 

Therefore, fill up your online shopping cart or visit your favorite store and just observe. You may find the act of observing alone beneficial enough without spending your hard-earned money. 

Stick to your budget

Create a budget on how much you are able to spend on your desired purchases and stick to it. Perhaps consider putting money aside every month to spend on yourself. Should you use up all of these funds, begin saving again. As previously mentioned, the act of saving often improves one's mood as well and saves you from putting yourself at risk of falling into debt. 

Shop for what you need

Often, people tend to spend a lot of money on things they do not need. However, you could try shopping for what you need, such as groceries, toiletries, and other household items. You may find that shopping for what you need may offer you the same benefits as shopping for what you do not necessarily need. You could also try a new shop and may find exciting essential products to try. 

Think of your purchases

In line with the above point, putting some thought into the products you buy beforehand could save you a lot of money. Impulse buying does not require you to put any thought into your purchases. However, when you put actual thought into your purchase, it always allows you to think rationally, which results in less regret and way more savings. 

Get help

If you find yourself constantly seeking shopping therapy whenever faced with a problem, it may help seeking outside support from a therapist to find alternative ways of dealing with your day-to-day stressors. It is important not to ignore these problems in order to avoid larger issues in the future. Therefore, in-person or online therapy may be the best route to take. 

Bottom Line

Shopping therapy can help you; however, it does not address deeper problems. Using shopping along with other coping mechanisms in an attempt to avoid recurring distress usually makes things worse in the long run. 

Coping mechanisms offer temporary solutions to your problems but do not provide long-lasting relief. Therefore, if you are dealing with anxiety, depression, grief, job dissatisfaction, or any other issues, online counseling would be the best option for you, and we are here to help you. 

Interested In Trying Out Retail Therapy?

Take Our Free Quiz