According to Wikipedia, compulsive shopping, otherwise known as retail therapy, is “shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit.”
At least one study supports the idea that, for some, there may indeed be therapeutic value in this endeavor.
What if you find that you can’t stop at the occasional episode of retail therapy? What if you develop a continuous urge to splurge? A different thing altogether can ensue—a different thing with a different name. Names, that is.
Compulsive shopping. Compulsive overspending. Shopping addiction. Shopaholism. Oniomania. (Fairly synonymous with the previous labels.) Shopping bulimia. Compulsive buying disorder.
Compulsive buying disorder is “characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment. Found worldwide, the disorder has a lifetime prevalence of 5.8% in the US general population,” according to the World Psychiatry journal.
Shopping bulimia as defined by Dr. Robi Ludwig (Today Show): “when people are overwhelmed by the desire to buy something in order to feel better, but once the initial happy buzz of buying wears off, they realize they can’t afford their spree, so they quickly return their purchases.”
I won’t go into defining every single term. The point is that for some people retail therapy goes beyond fun and into obsessive and/or compulsive territory. A 2006 Stanford University study’s conclusion was that about six percent of women and nearly that number of men are compulsive buyers of some type. A sizable number of these also go on to become hoarders.