We live in the age of consumerism, so it’s no surprise that we all love shopping. For some of us, shopping is even therapeutic or so advertisers would like us to believe. However, while shopping certainly does cheer us up, it’s no different to the temporary mood boosting effect of comfort foods.

As psychologists now point out, retail therapy has short term mood boosting effects like junk food and other addictive substances, but the overall or long term consequences are disastrous.

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really need”

Shopping As A Mood Booster

For most of us, shopping is an enjoyable activity that can be highly rewarding. It gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, which is why some of us tend to rely on it as a mood booster or emotional crutch.

Unfortunately, using shopping as a form of therapy is counterproductive, as mental health experts now point out.

Nothing Therapeutic About Retail Therapy

“Shopping promotes feelings of euphoria & relief, further strengthening & encouraging the behavior, as does a drug habit for an addict”

Compulsive shopping, or ‘retail therapy’ may actually be a sign of deeper psychological issues, forming an addictive behavior. Clinically described as compulsive buying disorder, the condition is associated with mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and boredom or restlessness.

This type of compulsive shopping behavior gives the shopping addict a sense of control over their life and actions, but more importantly, it may trigger the brain’s reward system. This gives the individual feelings of euphoria and relief, further strengthening and encouraging the behavior, as does a drug habit for an addict.

This euphoric feeling may provide short term benefits, working like a quick ‘pick me up’, but the effects wear off increasingly quickly and the problem worsens.

Risks Of Retail Therapy

“Compulsive buying disorder is a serious mental health disorder that exacerbates your depression & stress, giving it an added financial dimension”

After the initial euphoria from shopping fades, compulsive shoppers start to experience feelings of guilt and remorse, increasing depression, which is then relieved by further shopping. In other words, retail therapy does not relieve depression or emotional distress, but exacerbates it.

According to psychologists, compulsive buying disorder is a serious mental health problem that gives your existing stressors an added financial dimension. As a result, many shopping addicts only recognize the problem once they sink into heavy debt.

Our Take

While it’s nice to treat yourself to the occasional splurge, the words of renowned psychologist Dr. April Benson ring true – “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need”. Advertisers may love to sell the ‘retail therapy’ phrase, but this is because compulsive shopping benefits businesses.

Don’t allow marketers and advertisers to profit from your misery. When you are depressed or low, what you really need is some reassurance, comfort, a hug, and lots of love, but you can be sure that love is something you won’t find on Flipkart or Amazon!

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December 1, 2017

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