Retail therapy: does it really work?

By Dr. Farah Akram.

The answer is simple…SOMETIMES it does, SOMETIMES, it doesn’t.

Obviously, it would be helpful for people to know why and how retail therapy works. Or even what retail therapy is. Retail therapy is a comfort-seeking action, mostly employed by females as a means to get over sadness. Women also shop when they are happy, excited, rich (kind-of) and during peak sale times but that’s not retail therapy. That’s just…you know..normal.

Studies show that people feel sad or distressed when they lose their sense of control in a situation or when they are not given credit or praise that they feel is highly overdue. Given the differential treatment of women in the workplace or the lack of appreciation at home, it’s not difficult to work out why more women resort to retail therapy.

Retail therapy is a behaviour which puts one back in the position of control as they browse and choose products. Whether they are shopping for themselves or someone else, whether product selection is random or focused on a particular theme, customer’s delight in taking charge of their situation and this brings on positive emotions – happiness, excitement, positive anticipation, even bring on happy memories of past shopping experiences. Another study demonstrated that shopping can also help prepare a person for future challenges and reduce stress.

And guess what? One does not necessarily have to BUY something, more often than not, window shopping can also help. But let’s just ignore that and wish retail therapy was covered by health insurance instead.

A serious point is that retail therpy is NOT a solution for every blue occasion. It is crucially important to realize whether one’s sadness is on the borderline of depression, or even whether one is angry or jealous of not being in control rather than sad , because shopping has not been shown to have any significant benefit for these emotions. We can make retail therapy a joke, but as mentioned earlier, it is a comfort-seeking behaviour. If it’s not working, there is no harm or shame in seeing a doctor.

As I write this, it may seem that I am encouraging people to buy and hoard more things at home. That is not my intention.  In fact I have a win-win proposal for everyone (in my own opinion.)

Online shopping is a great new trend and nowadays many websites offer the option of shopping for charity. There are also wish lists compiled with regards to syrian refugees that have relocated to America. Here are 2 wishlists on Amazon: is a popular website in Pakistan that also has a charity and donation option.

Can you imagine? Shopping=happy and charity=happy. How can that not make someone feel good?

So I’ll end with:

About Author:

Dr Farah Akram. May Allah guide us to all that is good and right. Ameen.


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