'Retail Therapy' Can't Buy Happiness

Those who shop for a lift at risk of depression

Attention shoppers! Recent British research indicates that depression is twice as common in people who go shopping as a way to lift their spirits.

Such "retail therapy" offers a short-term buzz, says Lucy Purdy, one of the researchers, but some shoppers later regret their purchases. Ultimately, it makes them feel worse. Psychologists add that they're seeing an entire generation of consumers reared in the 1980s who see shopping as a way to cheer themselves up. The Observer reports that at least in the European Union, one-third of consumers are guilty of addictive spending or "unnecessary consumption."

People who shop for the short-term thrill run the risk of becoming compulsive shoppers, which health professionals treat as a serious disorder. Although it may sound superficial, the problem can bankrupt families, destroy relationships and some compulsive shoppers are driven to suicide.

In his column in The Times of London, Dr. Thomas Stuttaford adds that compulsive shopping can also be the outward sign of other problems, such as depression or a lack of self-esteem. Psychologist Michael J. Hurd explores other reasons behind the disorder.

What can you do to stop compulsive shopping? Indiana University in Bloomington has advice for curbing that shop-till-you-drop urge.

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