Retail therapy as coping mechanism can be seen through the observed rise in online shopping since the pandemic’s emergence.
How retail therapy helps
Shopping, online or otherwise, engages the senses. Lights, colors, and shapes combine to provide an experience that takes us away, albeit temporarily, from our current reality. It helps us visualize positive outcomes through positive anticipation. Merely envisaging a treat or a reward also releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of pleasure and happiness. Actually purchasing something isn’t the only way to release dopamine either – just filling up your online shopping cart already gives a feeling of satisfaction. From another vantage point, saving up money at the prospect of buying something can build anticipation and release dopamine.
Research shows that retail therapy as coping mechanism is so popular because of the sense of control and the ability to soothe sad feelings. Situations or factors out of our control can bring about sadness. The decisions we are able to make with regards to purchases assuages this negative emotion.