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“Retail Therapy” is a term commonly used to describe the action taken to relieve or compensate for negative feelings by purchasing things not planned or necessary. This is also considered the first phase of shopping addiction (Sohn et al, 2013), and like other behaviors (e.g., drinking alcohol, eating, gambling) these can be problematic if not done in moderation.

When shopping involves a preoccupation or uncontrollable urge to buy and also leads to significant social and financial problems, it is called Compulsive Buying (CB). This problem behavior is a cycle that maybe initiated by negative feelings, followed by a short-lived euphoria and possible long-term negative consequences. Although not officially recognized as a psychological disorder, CB is associated with impaired functioning (Gallagher et al, 2017).

Studies suggest that certain personality traits and mood disorders are factors common in people with CB. Prior research has linked individuals who met criteria for CB with significantly higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders (Harvanko et al, 2013) and greater levels of depression (Kyrios et al, 2013). This information exposes the possibility that people can behave in ways consistent with compulsive buying from time to time without meeting the diagnosis for a mental illness.

It is reasonable to suggest that if the patterns of behavior have similar origins that differ only slightly, people who demonstrate non-clinical compulsive buying tendencies may also do so to alleviate (or change) negative mood(s). Therefore it is hypothesized that occasional compulsive-buying type behaviors will be more common for individuals with higher levels of depression or anxiety and lower self-esteem.



Faculty Advisor

Ian Madfes, Ph.D.

Publication Date

Spring 2017


San Rafael, CA


Other Psychology

The Relationship of Anxiety, Depression and Low Self-Esteem on the Tendency to have Compulsive Buying-type Behaviors