How Bipolar Disorder and Symptoms Can Destroy Finances


One of the lesser known effects of bipolar disorder is that it can cause money problems. In fact, bipolar disorder and its symptoms can outright destroy finances. The good news is that this isn’t a personality flaw. It’s part of the bipolar disorder, which is a medical condition, and therefore absolutely not your fault. Let’s look at how bipolar disorder and symptoms can destroy finances, because understanding what’s going on can help you formulate a plan for addressing financial problems -sometimes, before they even begin.

Bipolar Disorder and Symptoms – How They Relate to Financial Problems

It turns out that both depressive and (hypo)manic episodes can cause you to spend a lot of money. The gist of it is that (hypo)mania leads to confidence and exuberance and that depression leads to a strong desire for the lift in mood that spending can provide.

First we’ll examine why (hypo)mania can lead to over-spending, and then we’ll examine how depression can do the same.

(Hypo)Mania Can Lead to Gambling

bipolar disorder and gambling

The sense of being important, lucky, and favored by fortune – a common experience during (hypo)mania can make gambling seem like a great idea – in fact, perhaps the only logical idea. The problem is that gambling favors all people alike, and that a (hypo)manic episode doesn’t actually make it so your luck is better than others.

And the high-inducing, compulsive design of gambling makes it difficult to stop. If you’re currently convinced that you’re a genius touched by the hand of God, gambling gets out of hand.

And for these reasons, bipolar disorder and outright gambling addiction often go together.

(Hypo)Mania Can Lead to Unwise Investment Schemes

bipolar can lead to unwise investing

Likewise, the sense of brilliance associated with (hypo)mania can cause you to leap into a get-rich-quick scheme, to invest money in risky stocks, and even leave your job prematurely to launch an ill-thought-out plan of self-entrepreneurship. That nearly irresistible sense of over-confidence can cause you to leap boldly into the fray and commit irreversible financial decisions before you wake up from your mania.

This is not to say that investments and solo business plans are necessarily a bad idea. It’s just that ones devised during a manic episode are generally terrible ideas.

Now that we’ve touched on how mania can hurt your personal finances, let’s look at what depression can do.

Depressive Episodes Can Lead to a Lack of Energy to Do Your Job

When you’re depressed, it can be hard to get out of bed. Hard to shower. Hard to prepare food. You can imagine that summoning the energy to go to work and carry out the tasks of your job can be incredibly difficult – even impossible. I always remember a passage from Depression For Dummies that mentioned that functioning with depression is as difficult as functioning with a broken leg – except that the difficulty is invisible to others.

Some workplaces are clear sighted enough to treat depression as the health issue that it is. Others haven’t gotten there yet.

But if you miss days of work – or, worse, lose your job because of your absences or lethargy – you can take a massive hit to your financial situation. And that sucks.

Depressive Episodes Lead to Excessive Retail Therapy – And Gambling, Again

It’s also true that shopping provides a momentary hit of dopamine. We feel bursts of physiological pleasure whenever we hit the “buy now” button or check out at the register. It makes sense, then, that someone suffering from depression would seek out the pleasure of shopping.

The problem, of course, is that we might not have the energy to check our bank balance – which can lead to overdraft charges. We might spend too much money during a shopping trip and end up with worries about where our groceries and mortgage payments will come from. We might buy items that we don’t need, which in turn clutters our environment further and leads to more anxiety and despair.

And that same hit of dopamine hits when we gamble too. So, just like we might gamble when we’re manic, we might gamble when we’re depressed.


Well, at least now we have more information.

The good news is that there are methods for dealing with these episode-driven spending sprees. We’ll cover some of them tomorrow.

Here’s Your Homework

Figure out why you overspend

FIrst of all, leave a comment below and share this post around if you found it useful. Second, take a moment to figure out which kinds of episodes cause you to spend too much, and why they feel so good for you. Let me know what you figure out – I’d love to know, and the more we normalize and build transparency around bipolar disorder, the better our mental health community will be.

How bipolar and symptoms can lead to financial ruin

–>How to Manage Bipolar Spending Sprees<–

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8 thoughts on “How Bipolar Disorder and Symptoms Can Destroy Finances

  1. I enjoyed reading your post Wendy, I have a friend that has bipolar, she has money problems, but I think that may have something to do with the fact that she plays on gambling machines, I have tried telling not to go on them but she says she’s addicted, she also has mood swings and sometimes gets angry with me even though I’m only trying to help, I will forward your website to her so she can see for herself and hopefully get the help and advice she needs.

  2. This is really helpful. I have a brother that suffers from bipolar disorders and it is always struggle to for him to handle his responsibilities. He just ends up getting so frustrated till the point where he wants  to quit and complete it another time. He knows he has a bad habit of doing this and is willing to work on improving it. So that is why I’m trying to gain more information on Bipolar Disorders and I am so glad I came across your article. I am definitely sharing this on my Facebook page too. Great article, very helpful.

  3. This is a helpful perspective when it comes to bipolar disorder. It’s this type of recognition and awareness that help lead to recovery. I guess I never really considered the monetary effects that bipolar disorder has, but I can definitely see how this unfortunate disease can create impulsive behaviors such as gambling and shopping. It’s nice to know that there are methods to deal with this disease and I appreciate you providing the YouTube and how to manage links. I know some people who would appreciate your post as much I have an I will definitely forward it along to them, thank you for shedding light on this unfortunate condition.

  4. I have an adult child who is bipolar. She is on medications and it seems like things are currently under control. But she seems to be constantly stressed out over money, even though she has a well-paying job. I have offered to help her with her budgeting but she wants to make it on her own. It is frustrating when I can’t help her to not be so stressed out. I just try to be a good listener. Do you have any advice for family members on how best to support our loved ones?

    1. I think that you’re really on the right track when you’re being a good listener. Well done. I think, in general, having the understanding that bipolar-induced spending is involuntary and not a personality flaw will help sufferers feel supported and accepted. 

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