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Why Retail Therapy Is Probably Harming Your Mental Health

After suffering through the last year of lockdown it is safe to say everyone's mental health has suffered somewhat. We all have different ways of coping with our struggles. One of the most common coping mechanisms is retail therapy which is, 'the practice of shopping in order to make oneself feel more cheerful.' Whether you're ordering online or in a socially distanced queue, cramming new outfits and accessories into your wardrobe never stops being fun. But is retail therapy healthy or is it damaging to our mental health?

The Positive Mental Health Effects of Retail Therapy

It is no surprise that, according to Mental Health America, there was a 93% increase in anxiety and 62% increase in depression from 2019 to 2020. Furthermore, they reported that one of the main concerns of suffers from mental health issues is isolation and loneliness. Due to global pandemic and enforced lockdowns collectively, the mental health of all of us has been damaged. Therefore, we've all had to rely on coping mechanisms to endure the boredom and stress such as retail therapy. There are several benefits to using your passion for fashion to help your mental state.

  • Creative exploration is a great benefit of retail therapy. It is clinically proven that so called 'happy' hormones are released when creative practices are performed. When you shop and assemble the new outfit in your mind imagining colours and combinations, it is a creative endeavour. Psychologist and art therapist, Dr. Cathy Malchiodi cited multiple studies in 2015 regarding creativity and fashion. Her conclusions stated that being creative can 'Increase positive emotions, lessen depressive symptoms, reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and even improve immune system functioning'. Therefore, there is an argument that having a little retail therapy and putting together that new outfit is good for your mental health! Exercising your brain and enjoying yourself at the same time, whilst you shop till you drop.

  • Another way you can improve your mental health is gaining self confidence. One way to gain self confidence is to wear what you want in any way you prefer. There's no worse feeling than feeling than wearing uncomfortable clothes you hate. Therefore, you should strut around in your own style based on your fashion taste. Your confidence will shoot up and your mental health will improve if you partake in a bit of retail therapy.

The Negative Mental Health Effects of Retail Therapy

Despite the dopamine rush you'll feel after shopping and getting that new outfit, retail shopping to a short term fix. As with all coping mechanisms the best way to improve your mental health is find the root cause. Without seeking help or finding more healthy ways to fix your mental health retail therapy can be dangerous.

  • Most obvious of all is the financial implications. Excessive spending can lead to debt or worse financial ruin. This may seem extreme however, if your mental health is continuously getting worse then you'll have to spend more and more until its too late. If you feel that you are addicted or your mental health is getting worse click this link to find help for shopping addiction and mental health services.

  • Your brain will begin to make the association between pleasure and clothing. Therefore, if you begin to stop buying clothes then your self image and sense of self worth may decline. This is because your brain's trigger for happiness will not be stimulated buy new purchases. This can lead to more mental health issues and an escalation of the original problem.

  • Excessive purchasing is also terrible for the environment. Shopping for new clothes will only lead to old clothes being thrown away. In addition, over washing clothes and excessively supporting the fast fashion industry is damaging to eco-systems globally. This can only be solved if you buy eco-friendly clothing or recycled clothes. However, for the most part fast fashion feeds retail therapy as it enables the cheap and quick positive reinforcement. If you care about the environment then do not over indulge in retail therapy. For more information on this topic click here to see an article from Mindless Mag.

The Verdict on Retail Therapy

Retail therapy is just as toxic as other problematic coping methods when abused. From time to time if we need a pick me up a little shopping spree is perfectly okay. However, if you feel you are on a mental health decline there are far more positive coping methods. For example, exercise, meditation, talking to friends or distracting yourself. It is key to remember that if you feel that your mental health is persistently worsening or overwhelming you then seek professional help. Click the link here to see the NHS website for more information and help. Retail therapy is fun sometimes as a minor coping method but remember it can be dangerous and have a negative impact on your life if let out of control.


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