Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by drastic fluctuations in mood. These fluctuations typically occur in mood episodes consisting of sets of specific symptoms. However, the combination of symptoms and severity can vary from person to person. Some of these symptoms can result in difficulty in managing your finances. It can be helpful to understand why this occurs and a few ways to prevent it.
One potential symptom in manic and hypomanic episodes of bipolar disorder is increased risk-taking behavior. This can come in many forms, including gambling, unsafe sex, substance abuse, and criminal activity. One such potential risky behavior is the impulsive and unwise spending of money. While perhaps not as blatantly dangerous as some other risky behaviors, it can still have devastating consequences for you and your loved ones.
Spending money on nonessential items for pleasure is reasonable in moderation. In some instances, it can be considered a form of self-care. However, it can be a negative behavior when that spending is impulsive, irrational, or uncontrolled. The resulting inability to pay bills, buy food, or purchase basic necessities can affect your well-being and those for whom you are responsible. Luckily, there are steps you can take to limit the potential for such risky spending.
One of the best preventative measures against risky spending due to your bipolar disorder is preventing manic or hypomanic episodes. Taking your bipolar medications as prescribed can significantly limit the chances of having one of these mood episodes. It doesn’t guarantee they will never happen, but they may occur less often and at a decreased severity.
Medications used to treat bipolar disorder are usually mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, or some combination of the three. No single combination works for everyone, and it may take a few tries to find the medications that work best for you. What’s important is not to give up if the first medication you try doesn’t work. While the effort can be tiring, the payoff can be monumental.
It is easy to feel alone when suffering from a mental health condition; talking to others with the same condition can be helpful. Whatever symptoms you are experiencing, chances are there are numerous others with similar symptoms. Finding a support group for people with bipolar disorder can be an excellent place to start. There are also groups like debtors anonymous for people working to improve their spending habits.
Sharing your struggles with impulsive spending can help you gain awareness about the behavior. Listening to others who have struggled with the same issue can give you ideas about how to stop this behavior. Having people who understand your condition can give you support to lean on when these symptoms arise again.
When experiencing the urge to spend money during a manic episode, your judgment might be too clouded to see if it is a bad idea. Having a support system you can reach out to when tempted can help with this. These people can hold you accountable and point out flaws in your reasoning that you may not be able to see. Sometimes, this might even be enough to keep you from making a purchase you will regret later.
The individuals you check in with could be any number of people. It could be friends, family members, a spouse, or someone from a support group. While a number of people can make up your support system, what matters is that they have your best interest at heart and are willing to be honest with you, even if it might hurt your feelings. Checking in is about being open and being told the truth when you need to hear it most.
Healthy boundaries with others are essential in many areas of life, including work, friends, and family. Boundaries for yourself can also be helpful. When you have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you know there is a potential to experience manic or hypomanic episodes in which you might impulsively spend money. In that awareness, there is a power that you can reclaim over your mental health condition by setting up boundaries.
The following are some healthy financial boundaries that can limit your ability to spend money when you are in a manic or hypomanic episode:
- Not keeping cash on your person
- Not owning credit cards
- Giving your debit card to a loved one if feeling at risk
- No saved debit or credit information on your computer
- Avoid going to stores or shopping websites
- Have a family member or significant other in charge of your finances
Take Back Control
Manic or hypomanic episodes of bipolar disorder can result in impulsive and detrimental spending behaviors. However, you can take steps to limit the occurrence and severity of these behaviors. While this may require additional work, the results can significantly benefit you and your loved ones. Furthermore, gaining some control over impulsive spending behaviors brings you one step closer to better managing your bipolar disorder.
Manic and hypomanic episodes associated with bipolar disorder can result in risky behavior. One of these potentially risky behaviors is the impulsive and unwise spending of money. This can have drastic negative financial consequences for yourself and your loved ones. Yet, there are numerous ways to limit the frequency and severity of these behaviors. At Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center, we want our clients to prosper in their treatment and personal lives. We aim to provide our clients with the knowledge, tools, and resources to manage their bipolar disorder while being financially responsible. If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder and struggle with risky, impulsive behaviors, call us at (714) 942-4143.