The highs and lows of retail therapy

Isabella Finn

Have you ever gotten so angry or upset that in a blinding blur you end up with two brown paper Penney’s bag clenched in your fists? Same. 

Retail therapy is “the practise of shopping in order to make oneself feel more cheerful” according to the Oxford Dictionary. This coping mechanism is a common reaction to emotional trauma or sometimes just minor inconveniences. It seems as though mindlessly spending €55-€65 on a new piece of wardrobe can be just as effective as visiting a psychiatrist for the same price. But is it really?

Shopping can provide some psychological rewards, boost confidence and be incredibly therapeutic. The difficult part is knowing when you’re in a safe environment to do so. Considering that retail therapy is often impulsive this aspect is challenging to monitor.

Retail therapy can be safe when easing a self-evolution, whether that’s buying copious amounts of stationary for college or buying three shirts too many for a new job. But it demonstrates preparation. It doesn’t suppress anxiousness like you think at might, being prepared by dress and materials acts as a visual stimulant to be adjusted for the change to come. 

This often happens when people are preparing for the arrival of a new baby, they tend to over shop in a panic. Retail therapy can be used as a way to gain control over a situation that you are actually powerless in, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about that Penney’s bag in your hand, but if you’re human you do.

Depending on your persuasion “adding to your cart” is easier done than window shopping. Just because its online doesn’t mean that the retail therapy rules don’t apply. Elle Woods would be happy to know that shopping can release Serotonin, this is a chemical that makes you happy and that you should remember “happy people just don’t shoot their husbands”.

Aside from that, retail therapy can be an extremely dangerous territory. It’s all good and well burning €167 on a designer bag, fuelled by a fit of rage, if you can afford your expenses. These more expensive retail excursions can quickly add up to the equivalent of a small fortune and before you know it you’ve crossed the line of the occasional retail therapy consumer into one of a shopaholic. 

Shopaholics are compulsive shoppers, not impulsive. Impulsive retail therapy shoppers react to instinct, whereas compulsive shopaholics buy items because they have to or because they can’t stop. How can you tell the difference? Ask yourself; Are you spending more than you can afford? Are you damaging your relationships because of your shopping? Do you feel as though your life would be incomplete until you buy a particular item? If so, my friend, I think we might have a problem.

Although a €55+ shopping expedition is within the same price range as a psychiatrist session it should not be used as a full time substitute. On occasion, put down your credit card and talk to a friend, it might have the same affect.

Isabella Finn

Image Credit: Isabella Finn