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When Bipolar Disorder Makes You Spend Way Too Much Money Over the Holidays


It is December. ‘Tis the season of giving. Thinking of others and embracing generosity sounds absolutely wonderful, but when my bipolar disorder comes into play, it’s not a completely magical time of year.

My first manic episode was during the winter of 2015. Manic behavior pushes every behavior to excess, so I spent entirely way too much money on everything from holiday decor to uncharacteristic shopping splurge purchases.

When mania comes into the picture, tasks like holiday shopping can become chaotic. Why? For one, at the height of mania, money seems limitless. The budget is nonexistent. Swipe that credit card. Load up the entire cart with gifts. Shop in the store. Shop online. Swipe the card some more. Money is no issue, right? Not exactly, but in the manic state of mind, logic doesn’t exactly rule my brain.

Secondly, the “generosity gear” goes into overdrive. That isn’t to say that during a normal state, I’m not at all generous. But mania can lead to a harmful level of generosity. It may seem wonderful to leave the waitress a $100 tip or give every person I know a pricey gift or two. But that just isn’t sustainable.

Third, mania can feature scattered thinking and forgetfulness. I may buy a gift for someone having forgotten that I had already bought something for them. I may not be able to place where I put those gifts.

Finally, there is the impulsivity factor. With mania, there is no pause button to stop and reflect on whether or not I need the item. Get it and go, and maybe get another one. And another one. Maybe a collection would be a swell idea!

If not careful, by the end of the season, there goes the checking and savings accounts, and here comes the depressive crash, just in time to pay those sky-high bills.

Quick tips:

  1. Create a reasonable holiday budget and stick to it!
  2. The holidays feature a lot of stressors (emotionally and financially) which may be triggering. Keep an eye on your symptoms and seek help right away if you notice a shift (i.e. significantly less sleep, hyperactivity, irritability).
  3. Stick to a schedule as much as possible during this time of year. Try to avoid staying up late.

How do you get through the holidays with mood disorder symptoms? Let me know in the comments!

GettyImages via Kerkez