Bipolar Impulses: Understanding the Impact on Finances and Relationships

Author: Sam Bowman


Developing healthy boundaries and coping mechanisms when dealing with bipolar disorder can feel like an uphill battle. Budgeting and managing your platonic, romantic, and familial relationships is already hard enough, but the overwhelming impulses that can come with bipolar disorder can make these efforts even more difficult. With proper management and proactive solutions, you can better understand your limits and experiences with bipolar disorder, using this knowledge to cultivate boundaries that stick.

Impulsive Actions and Their Effect on Financial and Personal Relationships

With bipolar disorder, impulsivity can be a core feature that vastly affects an individual’s quality of life. Decisions made during manic or depressive episodes can lead to irreparable severing of relationships with close family members or partners. You may become temporarily infatuated with another person, putting your existing relationships to the wayside and pouring into this other person in an unhealthy manner. On the other hand, you may also create debt that is difficult to dig your way out of — you may apply for a handful of credit cards, spending them wildly with no way to pay them back on time. These financial decisions made during manic episodes can affect loved ones — especially if they’re financially dependent.

If you suspect you may have trouble with impulsive spending, here are a few key signs:

● Abusing Buy Now, Pay Later accounts with little available funds to pay the debt back

● Multiple credit accounts sent to collections or maxed out routinely

● Inability to stop yourself from making unnecessary purchases

● Using shopping as frequent instant gratification

● Hiding your shopping habits from friends and family

One comorbidity diagnosis that is common for those with bipolar disorder is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Folks with OCD tend to find comfort in repetition during an episode, only to realize they are now dependent on the routine for fear of upsetting whatever balance is “restored” by these repetitive acts. They may develop a complex shower routine, for example, with the mentality that this structure will prevent a larger disaster from occurring.

Those with OCD can find it hard to reduce impulsive habits, especially if the compulsion requires consistent, pricey purchases and the secrecy that comes with those expenditures. You may become obsessed with a certain activity, like drawing, choosing to spend thousands of dollars on unnecessary art supplies, and isolating yourself from your loved ones in the process.

Tips to Maintain Relationships with Bipolar Disorder

To prevent impulsions from ruining your relationships, you must make an active effort to nurture them throughout every stage of your mental health. Be honest with your loved ones about your condition. Keep your partners aware and help them identify when manic or depressive episodes are about to or currently happening.

Setting boundaries is crucial as well. Let your loved ones know it is okay to create some temporary distance when you are experiencing impulsions that threaten their mental or physical well-being. Planning for these things allows either one of you to offset the negative emotions that come with it, giving you both the opportunity to get the space and help you need to continue the relationship.

Boundaries should also be followed financially in relationships. It may be helpful to separate any joint bank accounts and keep funds separate. This will prevent any excess strife from occurring if your impulsivity causes you to overspend. It is also a good way to show your partner you are making proactive efforts to reduce harm to them.

Quality time is another valuable part of maintaining any type of relationship amidst compulsions and impulsions. It is easy to get lost in mania and depression, but identifying firm days to spend time with your loved ones keeps you from creating too much distance. Choose one Friday a month to cook dinner with your family, or have a bi-weekly activity like bowling scheduled with your closest friends.

Budgeting Tactics for Those with Bipolar Disorder

There are ways to regain control over your spending so it doesn’t affect your relationships. Having multiple accounts for fun, bills, and savings will prevent you from using all your available funds in one sitting. You can even structure some accounts to limit accessibility, or you can have a trusted individual manage your accounts with bills and savings funds.

Other ways to develop healthy spending habits include:

● Use budgeting apps for personal money tracking and spending transparency with your partner.

● Discussing budgeting with friends for accountability and helpful tips.

● Pay off full credit card balance every month.

● Review subscriptions and eliminate unnecessary ones.

● Keep restaurant outings and excessive drinking to a minimum.

Working with your employer to divide your paycheck accordingly is another simple tactic to prevent overspending. Ask your payroll manager to place your paycheck in multiple accounts. This way, the account you use for everyday spending or fun won’t seem as full, and you’ll be less likely to splurge the money you and your loved ones need to survive.


The content of the International Bipolar Foundation blogs is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and never disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in any IBPF content.
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