Millions of Americans are living with bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings and sometimes erratic behavior. Medications are extremely effective in treating bipolar disorder, but no matter how good a particular medicine is, a person with bipolar disorder may still experience episodes of mania and depression at times. Manic episodes often start out with feelings of being happy and ultra-productive, however, it doesn’t take much time for more negative symptoms to appear, such as a compulsion to have sex or spend money. Indeed, many people with bipolar disorder have seen their financial lives ruined due to poor decisions made during manic episodes. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to help keep your finances from getting out of control during a bipolar episode of mania.
The first thing to realize is that your bipolar disorder is making you feel like you need to spend excessive amounts of money, so it may take some hard work and self-discipline to keep your wallet in check. As soon as you start to feel a manic episode coming on, you should be prepared to go into “damage control” mode. You’ll want to set a weekly spending limit for yourself–it should be enough money so you won’t feel deprived, but not so much that you can’t pay your bills. Once you’ve set an amount, go to the bank and withdrawal that amount of cash, then take your credit cards out of your wallet and leave them at home. By only spending cash, you’ll be able to keep tabs on your spending more easily, and you’ll make sure that you don’t make any extravagant “impulse purchases” that you really can’t afford.
If you find that you can’t stick to your weekly budget, it may be an appropriate time to hand some of the control of your finances to a family member or close friend, at least until your mania starts to subside. Pick someone that is familiar with bipolar disorder and your particular illness history, and explain to them that you need help to keep your finances in order until you are feeling more like yourself. This person can hold your credit cards and checkbook, and can help you evaluate any major purchasing decisions that involve spending large amounts of money. Make up your mind that you are doing this for your own future good, and try to trust your friend’s judgment when it comes to spending money during your manic episode.
Finally, try to avoid situations that encourage impulse spending. During a manic episode, you shouldn’t go to the mall “just for fun” or surf shopping websites “just to look around.” If you have something you need, go to the store with just enough money to buy it, and don’t spend time browsing or window shopping. If you’re still feeling compelled to spend lots of money after a week or two, you should ask your psychiatrist if it might be time to adjust your bipolar medication. The symptoms of mania, like the compulsion to shop, are one of the most difficult aspects of bipolar disorder to deal with. Luckily, by using a little commonsense and following this advice, you should be able to navigate the choppy waters of bipolar disorder without spending every last penny you have.