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What is Retail Therapy?

Jenna Lawrence | Opinion Editor

Many people have used retail therapy as a coping mechanism at least once in their lives, and they might not have even realized it. Retail therapy is the act of buying something for yourself with the belief it will make you feel better. It really doesn’t matter what is bought when participating in retail therapy if the object being purchased is something that will make you happy.

Can retail therapy ever be a good thing?

If retail therapy does not become a habit, it is harmless. Shopping can sometimes have the power to make us feel as though we have more control over at least one aspect of our lives. However, if it becomes something you do repeatedly, it could lead to too much spending, harming your finances.

Studies have also found that retail therapy actually does work. According to the Journal of Consumer Psychology, shopping as a form of therapy fights residual sadness, as well as having the ability to make people happier immediately. Because of the dopamine that is released when we shop, it’s no wonder retail therapy possesses that ability.

Additionally, you don’t even need to actually buy something for retail therapy to do its job. Online shopping is an example of this. Many people feel immediate relief even by just adding things to their online shopping cart and not purchasing them. Online shopping also adds another layer to retail therapy, which is the anticipation of receiving a package.

But when does retail therapy become damaging?

If done too frequently, retail therapy can lead to a shopping addiction, also known as oniomania or compulsive buying disorder. It can become the only thing that improves your emotions. The effects can also become more temporary instead of more long-lasting as they would have been with your first few purchases.

So, how can you stop using retail therapy?

Some easy things you can do to stop shopping too much are knowing what triggers your need to shop and trying a different coping mechanism, such as meditation or journaling. You can also create a budget for yourself to limit your spending.


Rick, Scott, et al. “The Benefits of Retail Therapy: Making Purchase Decisions Reduces Residual Sadness.” Journal of Consumer Psychology, 27 Dec. 2013,

Team, Family Health. “Why Retail ‘Therapy’ Makes You Feel Happier.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 7 Mar. 2022,


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