What Happens When We Go Shopping To Cover Up Our Sadness?

What Happens When We Go Shopping To Cover Up Our Sadness?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 25 September, 2023

This is due to our consumer societyIt wasn’t people’s likes and tastes that created this desire to go shopping. It was actually the other way around – the new forms of market and economy brought about new likes and tastes in how people spend their free time.

Of course, publicity plays a big part in this habit, because it makes unnecessary things seem necessary.

Buy what thou hast no need of and ere long thou shalt sell one’s necessities.

-Benjamín Franklin-

Supermarkets used to be designed for customers to be able to find what they were looking for and that was that. Now they’ve become architectural giants, with a huge range of comforts and ways to have fun.

They basically work like entertainment centers and have turned into a social reference point.

Going shopping – is it good or bad?

It’s a fact that we’re part of a consumer society and that in one way or another we all play a part in keeping that dynamic alive. It’s also a fact that no matter how stingy you are, shopping will bring you satisfaction. 

Beyond the need you fulfill by purchasing an item, buying things also brings you a feeling of power and abundance that’s hard to get from other activities.

friends with a lot of shopping bags

There are studies that prove the brain benefits from going shopping. This was observed in research done at Brunel University in London.

Seeing something you like, wanting it, then buying it activates certain regions of your brain that release dopamine. Your mood will improve and you’ll feel happier. It’s been scientifically proven.

But the brain also reacts this way to other kinds of stimuli. Your mood will also improve when you do exercise or some kind of gratifying activity like dancing or sewing.

The same thing happens when someone gives you a flirtatious compliment you think is sincere, or when you  really get into a book. But the market has started to stereotype our satisfaction and always points it to a mall (which is what the market wants).

There’s actually nothing wrong with going shopping. It can be extremely positive if you do it consciously and responsibly. 

The problems come when you start going to malls constantly to avoid the feeling of discomfort that you know how to process some other way. This is when shopping won’t help you improve your mood. Instead it will just help you cover up the problem or even create a new one.

You think that maybe the discomfort will go away while you’re looking into shop windows, going in and out of dressing rooms, or imagining yourself in the new clothes while you pay. But…do you feel better or worse after those short, critical moments are over?

Going shopping to process discomfort

It’s become common to hear a lot of people say they go shopping because they’re depressed and want to boost their mood. Or they say going shopping is their therapy to “forget” about their problems.

Malls have turned into a place to work through pain and soothe a crushed heart. Purchasing things helps us forget that we have limits and problems, and that we aren’t here forever.

woman worried about buying so many things

In these conditions it’s not strange that people focus their free time on going to malls or other businesses. It’s also common that they feel a deep frustration when they can’t get there, or they work hard to have the income that will let them “live in style.”

Credit cards

The perfect companions for this way of life are credit cards. A while ago they were only for businesses people or people with a high income. Now it’s extremely easy to get a credit card.

They get rid of all the barriers when it comes to going shopping, because you don’t see the money you’re spending while you shop. You end up indebted and happy to move on with your life.

But…your life will start to get worse in a lot of ways without you realizing it. A lot of your income will end up going towards paying off all your credit cards. And then your world will become one-dimensional.

You’ll stop finding satisfaction in free activities that don’t involve any transactions. You haven’t done it on purpose, but you’ve given all the control to the marketing experts. 

In the end, you’re the one who pays – for what you bought, for what you stopped experiencing, and for the consequences of the conflict you couldn’t resolve and tried to shove under the rug so you couldn’t see it. And you did it just to spend money on things you didn’t need.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.