While most people are shopping weekly for groceries, or the occasional gift, or making their lists for the holidays, shopping for many people in our culture of addictive consumerism isn’t just about getting the right gift: it’s about satisfying a need. For some people, shopping is just as destructive as drinking and drugs can be in many families. But why do people feel the need to buy things in order to fill a hole in their lives?


Depression Abounds

Especially around the holidays, feelings of depression and despair can feel like they’re taking over people’s lives. It’s difficult for some people to feel like their friends and families are there for them when it’s just as easy to swipe a card to buy a new outfit or gadget. I myself have done it in the past – when that feeling comes, you just want to feel better with some “retail therapy.” It gives your mind something else to think about rather than the problems in your life. With the cold weather, that can make the feeling of needing “retail therapy” that much stronger. Buying to fill an emotional need comes in a spectrum of ways, from buying a few items that end up being an over-spend, to our society-wide addiction to materialism, to outright Oniomania, better known as compulsive shopping.


Finding Healthy Alternatives

Other than spending until you can’t spend anymore, there are lots of healthy alternatives to using shopping to fill an emotional need. Postconsumers specializes in providing resources that help people decide for themselves how much stuff is enough, whether it’s a little or a lot. As with anything, if you have a serious issue and can afford therapy, there are people out there who will lend an ear to any problems you have, and can help you tackle the emotional issues that trigger retail therapy spurts. For me, when I think I need to head to the store for a new jacket because I’m having a bad day, I take a minute to reflect about what’s happening. I think, “Wait. I don’t feel great today. Why do I feel like this? What is it that’s making me feel this way?” I always keep a notebook near me so I can write down what’s happening, so I feel like I’m letting it go somewhere instead of doing something destructive. If you already have a Thankful Journal, maybe take a minute to look through it and remember the positive in your life.




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