BIPOLAR SPENDING SPREE

shopping_spree

People with bipolar disorder experience severe mood swings can last several weeks or months. These include feelings of intense depression despair, manic feelings of extreme happiness, mixed mood depression with restlessness and overactivity. The disorder can also lead to impulsive spending sprees, usually during manic episodes. These extend to cars, holidays and computers, costing thousands of dollars, as irrational decision-making takes hold. It may be wild “self-medicating” shopping sprees, unwise investments, extravagant gifts to family, friends or charity, or spending a fortune on gambling. People with mental health problems are already more likely to be debt-ridden than the general population, and the number is even higher among those with bipolar disorder. Financial troubles then lead to problems of stress, anxiety, depression and suicide among those not officially diagnosed with a mental illness.Cant-Afford-To-Eat (1)

Can’t Find Money To Eat

The UK mental health charity Mind says debt is leaving thousands of people with bipolar disorder struggling to find money to eat, stay warm and pay the rent. They wrote a report stating, “People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder may have particular problems managing their finances. During a manic, or ‘high’ phase, people can feel euphoric, brimming with ambitious schemes or ideas, their confidence excessively high. They may reach financial decisions that seem sensible to them at the time but which, in retrospect, are not. People may spend extravagantly causing a considerable debt. “After a high phase is over, they are shocked at what they have done and by the consequences they face. This spirals out of control quickly and can be daunting.” During a low phase, the person may feel so depressed they are unable to leave the house or even answer the phone. Unopened bills can pile up. Comedian and writer Stephen Fry spoke out about his experiences on behalf of the charity Mind. He said: “My own bipolar condition has caused me to go on plenty of giddy spending sprees. Because so much stigma still surrounds mental health, many people can’t get a job, on poverty line, and can’t get credit but doorstep lenders charging up to 400 percent interest. Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, adds people with bipolar disorder can become trapped in a spiral of debt that further compounds their mental health problems. He believes that procedures need to be put in place that allow people to protect their finances while still retaining autonomy. Customers with mental health problems should be able to ask bank to monitor their account for unusual spending patterns, and treated appropriately if they miss repayments.happy-family-children-shopping-11079356

Getting Out of Debt as Bipolar

Mental health professionals sometimes offer advice and help individuals set a realistic budget. They can help set up a repayment plan to creditors and teach financial management skills. Friends and family may be able to assist by creating checks and balances to prevent manic spending sprees. If in agreement, they could monitor individual’s money from a distance. Psychoeducation could also be a good idea. Teaching people with bipolar disorder about the illness, treatment and to recognize relapse or causes of relapse early intervention is sought before full-blown illness episode occurs. The approach may be helpful for family members. In addition, there are support groups available for patients and family members to help them talk openly about the condition. Studies suggest that the availability of social support increases the chances of employment in patients with bipolar disorder compared with those patients without support. Bipolar disorder, lifestyle decisions such as exercising and eating well can help to avoid such problems. Keeping regular sleeping patterns is thought to be helpful in preventing episodes, as is avoiding excessive stimulation such as caffeine or stressful social events during the onset of a possible manic episode. When tempted to make large purchase, people with bipolar disorder might feel able to alert their spouse, partner or friend in time to discuss the purchase. menendez-blog-img-1There may be possibility of delayed gratification or order processing which needs a second approval at end of a cooling off period before final decision confirmation. To repair damage caused by the excessive spending during manic episodes must deal with loss of earnings as a result of illness, or taking steps to prevent future problems and financial health is top priority. Its important to stay well get treatment and support. 

References and Further Reading

In the red: Debt and mental health

Rethink: About Bipolar Disorder

Preventing Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder information from Mayo Clinic

National Alliance on Mental Illness