Shopping therapy is the practice of using the retail experience to help overcome depression or other emotional problems. Many people shop for this reason without even realizing it, and some experts think it happens as a result of deep-seeded human needs. Shopping can fill certain emotional vacuums in a person's life, such as the need for social interaction, or the yearning to feel a sense of accomplishment. When people go shopping, they often come away from the experience with a greatly improved outlook. This effect can sometimes be very temporary, but shopping is a frequent repeated activity for many people.
There are many reasons why people benefit from shopping therapy. One of the most obvious things is the enjoyment people get from the items they buy. Most people like to accumulate new things, no matter how trivial they may be, and when people shop, they often buy things they really care about on some level. For example, when people come home with a new shirt or a new computer, they assume that the item is going to improve their lives in some way, and this can help alleviate many feelings of malcontent.
Another potential benefit of shopping therapy is the feeling that a mission has been accomplished. Some experts think humans are wired with the need to constantly achieve and strive for improvement. Making a decision to go buy something, and then actually following through on this plan, is one way people can take action to directly change their own lives. This may give them a feeling of power by providing a sense that they have more control of their own destiny.
Even when people don't actually have any money to buy things, they might sometimes still benefit from shopping therapy. For some individuals, simply browsing can be an empowering experience because it helps them form plans. In their minds, people make a decision to buy certain things later, and this may help them feel motivated to get through tough times.
The simple act of leaving home and spending time around other humans is another possible reason for the effectiveness of shopping therapy. There is sometimes a sense of community in the shopping experience that may help alleviate loneliness. Many people even use shopping as a specific social activity by bringing people they care about along with them and turning the process into a recreational ritual of sorts.