Retail Therapy vs Compulsive Shopping as a Coping Mechanism

shopping addiction

With some of the biggest shopping holidays coming up, many people are gearing up to spend money! While most of us shop regularly for food, toiletries and other essentials, it’s not until the holiday season that many people spend money on clothes, jewelry and gifts for others. 

Because shopping is going to be the norm from now until the end of the year, you might be curious as to what the difference is between harmless retail therapy (especially with all the good deals!) and a potential shopping addiction. The lines become blurred at this time of year, so it’s important to know the difference. 

What is Retail Therapy? 

Retail therapy is shopping with the goal of relieving stress. It differs from your typical grocery shopping errands because it’s triggered by emotion instead of need. Purchasing something you want gives a boost of happiness. And, it’s not necessarily a bad way to handle emotional distress. As long as you stay within budget, retail therapy can have a positive impact on your mental health. 

A few of the reasons why shopping makes you feel good are: 

  • It focuses your attention on one thing (and something that makes you happy!).
  • You can engage and socialize with others in a controlled, relaxed environment. 
  • Shopping is empowering, as you’re able to treat yourself with your hard-earned money.
  • Able to self-soothe yourself in the moment with a fun and unexpected purchase. 

Overall, retail therapy can be a healthy outlet when it’s practiced in moderation, and you stay within your budget. 

What is a Shopping Addiction? 

Knowing that a little retail therapy isn’t a bad thing, how does it compare to a full-blown shopping addiction? A compulsive shopping addiction is where you spend excess time shopping and spending money. It doesn’t matter if you have the money to buy things or not, you continue to purchase the items you want. 

The motivations behind a shopping addiction are similar to retail therapy. People shop to lift their mood, relieve stress, cope with boredom and feel better about themselves. However, the difference is that they do this excessively, not in moderation, and they continue to spend money, even if they don’t have it. 

Symptoms of Compulsive Shopping 

Not all people show their compulsive shopping behaviors in the same way, especially now with the internet. It’s easier to hide what you’re doing by shopping from your mobile device and having things delivered throughout the day. 

Here are some signs and symptoms that you may have a compulsive shopping addiction: 

  • Spending a lot of time and money buying things
  • No sense of control over how much you spend or what you buy 
  • Your shopping is leading to debt problems 
  • Family and friends are becoming upset about your shopping 
  • You feel a high or buzz after shopping
  • You feel anxious, sad or uncomfortable when you’re not shopping 

Shopping Addiction Treatment in Princeton NJ 

Even though shopping addiction isn’t formally recognized by professional organizations, it’s something that affects many people, and it can lead to damaging consequences. Therefore, if you have a problem, you can benefit from shopping addiction treatment in New Jersey

It’s important to address this behavior because it’s often a sign of something greater, such as depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. You may be using the act of shopping to cope with stress, anxiety and unwanted memories. Without treatment, you might also develop other harmful coping mechanisms. 

Shopping addiction therapy in Princeton NJ typically involves a combination of medications, especially antidepressants, and therapy options like cognitive behavioral therapy. You can access shopping addiction therapy at CTRLCare Behavioral Health, where we teach a wide range of behavioral disorders. Learn more today!