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Money Matters & Tips on managing debt when you have Bipolar Disorder

Money Matters and Mind

Mental Health and financial debts are often found flanking each other in strong embrace. We have already discussed how Debt can affect our Mental Health and ways to cope with it, earlier. What is yet to be considered is, if our mental health in its turn plays any role in causing debts. And if it does, what do we do to stop ourselves from falling into unreasonable and easily avoidable debts?

Here, when we mention mental health problem, the all-inclusive term refers in general to any psychological condition ranging from Depression, Anxiety to even Schizophrenia or Bi-polar Disorder. It is often found that people suffering from any Mental Health Problem struggle to feel happy about themselves, or to find self-confidence. Sometimes we feel like -‘spinning out of control’, when in an attempt to find inner peace, we resort to some superficial feel-good techniques like impulsive purchases, gambling or binge drinking with friends. Notice, all such activities lead us to spend money on things we don’t really need.

Building inner resources:

Debts occur when demands become bigger than the resources we have. This is true both for our mental health and our wallet. Talking about our mind, it is important to remember that in order to cope with depression; we must build up our inner resources. Inner Resources are not something that can be taken away from us, they are not transient. By learning a new skill, reading books or listening to music we can develop our inner resources, which can make us feel good about ourselves in our darkest times.

Understand your spending:

However, if we depend too much on external resources, for example, purchasing luxury items to gain this ‘feel-good’ factor, we keep spending more than we have, getting ourselves into a debt. Sooner or later the reality of the situation hits us, of not having the money to pay off the credit and its culminating interests, bringing in fresh new anxieties and draining some more of our confidence. Thus, inadvertently we fall into a vicious circle, a rabbit hole.

Tips on managing debt when you have

People who experience bipolar disorder (periods of depression interspersed with mania)can become impulsive and overspend when they are high. The following tips are particularly relevant to bipolar sufferers. They may also help people suffering from depression or obsessive compulsive disorder:

  • Consider a basic bank account, and stick to one or two debit and credit cards at a time.

  • Hand over cards to a trusted friend or family member, especially cards with the highest credit limit.

  • Consider calling credit card providers to ask them to lower your limits.

  • Put parental controls as hurdles between you and your internet shopping.

  • Be aware of the Consumer Contracts Regulations which give you 14 days to change your to return goods when purchased online - a blessing for impulse buyers.

  • Consider subscribing to the self-help groups like Bipolar UK.

Approaches to treat mental distress

Of the various approaches available to us right now, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is widely acclaimed, and trusted for treating various mental health treatments.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) aims to help you change the way you think, feel and behave. It can be done alone with the aid of a book, online or face-to-face with the support of another person. The principle of the approach is to help a person recognise his unresolved difficult emotions and ways to cope with them in a healthy way. This is a skill, just like learning a new language or riding abike, but once learned can be practiced and put into place on a daily basis.Advice about this type of approach can be sought from GPs. You may be able to get treatment on the NHS or pay for it privately. For an online course, you can register to our website, and refer to http://www.ostrichcommunity.co.uk/online-courses/

Handling everyday finance:

Mental health problems can also make it difficult to deal with everyday money matters. It can affect your motivation, judgement and even income. It is always a good idea to trust someone to take care of such inevitabilities, until you feel you are up to it. On the other hand, it is absolutely a disastrous idea to think that the problem will go away if you shove them under the carpet, that is, the unopened credit statements from your bank or unpaid electricity bills deep inside your chest of drawers. Running away from the problem will never make it go away.

However, it can take time before you feel strong enough to tackle debt problems and put things right. If you do find that you are in financial difficulty as a result of your mental health, don’t despair – there are lots of little positive steps you can take to sort it out. Below are some links that you may find useful, while dealing with Mental Health Problems and Debts:

Free debt counselling agency contacts:

Citizens Advice: Free, confidential and impartial debt advice service. Citizens Advice staff get specialist training on dealing with clients who have mental health problems

Link: www.citizensadvice.org.uk or visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

StepChange: Beside being a full debt help service, StepChange provides extra support to clients in fragile state, including those with mental health issues, for example,by helping completing forms or with benefits checks. StepChange says it’s important to let its counsellors know about your condition, so you can get additional support.

Link: www.stepchange.org Tel: 0800 138 1111

Tool to check if money worries are affecting your health:

The NHS and Money Advice Service have launched a tool to help assess if financial problems are affecting your health. The questionnaire takes around 5 mins and then it directs you to personalised advice such as relaxation tips, anxiety audio guides or how to find free NHS counselling.

Try it at www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Money-worries.aspx

Finally, perhaps the most important thumb rule to live by is, never make any important financial decision if you are feeling unwell or in any crisis. If you are feeling very low or suicidal because of debt, talk to someone in confidence now. It could be your GP, consultant, psychiatrist, friend or family member. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123, the NHS on 111 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 (NI).

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