Why Do People Shop When They Are Upset?

Why Do People Shop When They Are Upset?

Did this question make you think about the number of times you have added things in your online cart when you felt sad or low? have you ever thought about if you would purchase products that you 'want' or 'need' when you are upset? on really thinking you will find that it is mostly the ‘want’ factor than the ‘need’ factor, but why?

Feelings and emotions are a part of life where expressions indicate an overall mood of an individual. It is a way of connecting and interacting with people around you in your surroundings. It is through these emotions with which one tries to understand others point of view and experiences which they have shared. Expressing is an important aspect in psychology and contributes in better understnding of mental health as well. Great importance is given to the concept of ‘catharsis’ in therapy. Catharsis is process of venting out where an individual releases and let out all strong and repressed emotions which gives a sense of relief. Every negative thought in the mind has its own way of channelling out to get some level of relief and venting out the suppressed emotions are one of the ways of doing it. Self-introspection becomes important to understand and analyse the thought processe; ie the feelings and its effects on self. Acting upon the negative aspects in self and changing them into positive aspects is an important part of self-growth and development.

Shopping is associated to mood and behaviour of an individual. You go for shopping on occasions, celebrations, to buy gifts for loved ones, keeping yourself updated with the upcoming trends. There are lot other reasons for shopping. Shopping can be done by physically going to the place or online. In today’s busy lifestyle most of you might prefer online shopping so that it is not much time consuming and doesn’t drain out your energy to be physically purchasing anything. As shopping is done as a result of positive mood and emotions, but did you know that it is also done as a result of being sad, feeling low, upset or being anxious?

Well, then let’s talk about why does that happen? An article from the ‘Journal of Consumer Psychology’, July 2014 reported about benefits of ‘Retail therapy: Making purchase decisions reduces residual sadness’. The article talks about how sadness is connected to pressurising situations has a control over ones life, and how one deals with the same. The results show that shopping made people feel a sense of control over the situations which were seemingly out of control. This helps in uplifting the mood and reduced sadness of the individual.

Anxiety is an emotional reaction which promotes impulsive shopping. People who are anxious in nature are more prone to end up in impulsive shopping. A research done by Rajagopal Raghunathan, published in ‘Journal of Consumer Psychology, March 2006, on anxiety triggers a preference for options that are safe and provides a sense of control. Also that sadness triggers a preference for more rewarding and comforting options. Both the experiments positively proved the hypotheses.

What makes one go and buy something in a shop? The store’s atmosphere plays an important role in attracting consumers to get into the store, have a look at the products displayed. Factors such as observation/sight, sense of smell and sound is used for association with brands by the consumers, as stated by Joseph Demeri in an article published in ‘Retail Info Systems’, 2014.

Shopping is a momentary pleasure. It gives happiness and satisfaction immediately. When you feel sad, you feel the need to enhance your mood. Materialistic shopping is a type where one feels happy by purchasing luxurious things. It gives them a sense of control and comfort at the same time. Talking about impulsive shopping or retail therapy, does this remind you of the very famous movie ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’? This is a great example where the main character was a shopaholic and wasn’t able to have a control over the impulsive shopping she used to do. She has been portrayed as someone being restless when she looks at something attractive and branded until and unless she buys the product. A sense of extreme happiness is felt by the character after each purchase. It is shown that be it any mood, sad, happy, excited, low, the  character would just go for shopping. She did not ever need a reason per say to buy something. Every purchase gave a sense of power to the main character which enhanced her mood even more.

A lot of times even if you realize that you might not be shopping only because you feel sad, you end up shopping. Why is that? After realisation also, why would you still shop? That is because you convince yourself that it is okay to feel the way you are feeling, and as a result of that you are shopping to make yourself feel better. There is nothing wrong in that, is there? You console yourself by shopping. It is essential to have patience towards completing a particular task or finding ways to keep yourself connected to working on things that you like to do. This might help in reducing overthinking, and negative emotions, leading to a stable mood.

About the Author

Sharmishtha Chakraborty
Counselling Psychologist.

I, Sharmishtha Chakraborty am a Counselling Psychologist by profession. I have completed my Master's in Counselling

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