Harder times ahead for everyone
In October, the World Health Organization warned that the global financial crisis is likely to cause increased mental health problems and even suicides as people struggle to cope with poverty and unemployment. In the United States, it appears that the economy isn't going to improve anytime soon. "The recession we are currently in will get worse before it gets better," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "Were in for a long slog and if 2008 wasn't the year you made adjustments, then 2009 will be."
Andy Behrman, the author of Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, says that at the height of his bipolar disorder, he would drop $25,000 at Barneys New York, the upscale retailer, and take taxis to the airport in the middle of the night to buy a full-fare seat on the next international flight. He would spend constantly, eventually running up a $2 million tab and serving time in prison for art forgery. Today, Behrman has paid off all of his debts and is a writer and mental health advocate in Los Angeles. He says hes got his spending impulse under controlat least more than beforebut it never disappears; in fact, the need for money to burn acts as a career motivator.
How bipolar patients can avoid overspending
The following steps may help bipolar patients weather the current economic storm, primarily by helping them avoid episodes of uninhibited shopping. Most of the tips are valuable to everyone during tough financial times, but they are doubly important for those with bipolar disorder.
- Do what you can to avoid mania. Regular sleep patterns, exercise, and meditation all help reduce the stress that triggers an episode.
- Talk to a financial expert. Getting the advice of a financial expert can help you come up with a game plan to avoid overspending and defuse the feeling of helplessness.
- Find a support group. Dr. Robbins says that brooding and keeping your emotions to yourself wont help. Support within a community helps patients understand they are not alone. In addition, support groups can be a good resource for information on jobs, health care, and other issues. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is a good place to start.
- Turn off Mad Money. The 24-hour news cycle may, in fact, be driving you mad. "Sound bites wont help you acquire wisdom or knowledge, and television news is contaminated with negativity," says Dr. Goodwin. Overstimulation can also trigger mania. If you want to learn more about the economic crisis, he suggests in-depth articles that allow for reflection and analysis.
- Hit up the drug companies. Most pharmaceutical companies give away free medications to bipolar patients who meet certain economic criteria, Dr. Goodwin says. If your current financial state is problematic, consider this option. Your doctor should be aware of the application process.
- Consider setting up a durable power of attorney. This allows a bipolar patient to designate another person to act as legal authority on their financial behalf, in the case that they become incapacitated. The power of attorney can be tailored to the patient's specific requests.