spending during mania can be a destructive symptom of bipolar, and can
devastate a family’s financial security; here’s how to help navigate this road:
Understand the diagnosis
It’s not uncommon for people without bipolar to be financially irresponsible and overspend, live beyond their means, and wind up in bankruptcy.However, as caregivers, we need to accept that people with mania have a higher risk of out-of-control spending and mismanaging money. During bipolar mania, thoughts can be irrational and impulses to spend, give away or gamble uncontrollable. Once stable, the person can have overwhelming guilt, which then often cycles into depression. Unfortunately, people in a stage of depression can also self-console by over-spending.
Resist the blame game
It’s imperative for both you and your partner to recognize and accept this compulsion to overspend as a common spin-off of bipolar. Chances are, your spouse will have enormous guilt when they realize what they’ve done.
This from a caregiver whose husband cancelled their investments: “It’s important that when your loved one is stable, that you discuss the pain and the hurt, but you are also clear to them that you understand how to separate the disease from the person because no one can live with the heartache that, when manic, they have spent the retirement money and child’s college fund.”
Let go of embarrassment
Having money issues, or being in a financial crisis, can come with shame, especially for the partner who caused the debt. When you put things in context, and accept that this is part of the diagnosis, you can get past the pride, and ask for —and even accept —financial help from others. Also, remember that it’s not uncommon for families to have financial contingencies put in place when drafting trusts, wills, and powers of attorney that take into account those with mental health challenges.
Working it out together
The results of grandiosity,
overspending and impulsivity are not limited to just the person with bipolar.
The fallout can affect the entire family—deeply. One of the best ways to head
off any missteps before they happen is to have a well-thought-out financial
prevention plan in place. It’s best that this be worked through—preferably with
a financial advisor—and decided on with your spouse during a stable time. There
are all kinds of strategies that will help going forward.
We asked financial planners who have experience advising relatives or clients with bipolar disorder for ways to guard against overspending during mania. Annie McQuilken, who is based in Fairport, New York, had these tips: #1 Bank on it Have one bank account for bills such as rent and utilities, and leave the checkbook for that...
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