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Understanding the Link Between
Money and Mental Health

Mental health and money are often intimately linked. Those who suffer from mental health issues are, by and large, more likely to worry about their financial situation. Not only this but many common mental health problems, in particular, bipolar disorder, can cause an increase in impulsive behaviour. Commonly, such behaviour leads to the patient spending money during manic episodes. Poor mental health often makes managing money harder, and when the patient becomes aware of financial problems, the worrying often exacerbates their mental health issues.

The link between mental illness and money is complex and will vary between individuals and diagnoses. Mental illnesses are often highly personalised, meaning that the symptoms and features of a particular illness in one individual will not necessarily be found in another.

Because of this, it is often difficult to offer universally applicable advice. However, this guide will attempt to provide a general overview, which will be of use to both patients and their families when trying to understand how a mentally ill individual can better manage their money.

How They Link Together

There are numerous ways that mental health issues and money worries can link together, for example, many patients who are suffering from a long-term debilitating mental illness are either unable or severely restricted in their ability, to work. This can make it difficult to secure a reliable source of income. Support sites can be useful in this case, for example Mental Health & Money Advice offer advice on how to support a mental health patient when managing their money, as well as multiple budgeting calculators.

Living with bipolar isn’t easy. Patients who suffer from bipolar disorder often find that during their manic episodes they are more susceptible to impulsive behaviour and this behaviour regularly includes spending money frivolously. The reasons for this are complicated and no amount of rationalisation during their more sober periods will be able to penetrate their state of mind during mania.

Many mental health patients, regardless of the specific illness which affects them, spend money as a way of making themselves feel better. Patients who have a comorbid addiction to gambling will often feel inclined to spend money fuelling their gambling addiction and chasing the rush that comes with it. This group of patients of particularly vulnerable to the negative financial implications of their mental health issues.

A large number of mental health sufferers are afflicted by multiple mental health conditions simultaneously. For example, those who suffer from depression are often found to also have anxiety and depression disorders. Because of this comorbidity in conditions, mental health sufferers often have great difficulty in things that most people take for granted, such as using the phone or opening a bank statement. This hinders their ability to respond to and rectify problems when they do occur, and so make it easy for money problems to rapidly spiral out of control.

When money issues settle in, the sufferer will often reach out and grab any opportunity to alleviate their situation. In some cases, this can result in the individual taking a job that they are not comfortable with or suited to. This in turn often feeds in negatively to their general mental health. In extreme cases, both men and women can be driven towards prostitution or similar situations out of desperation. Mental health patients are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and this is part of the reason that it is so important that when they are dealing with money issues they have access to support and options.

Understanding Behaviour

The first step in assisting a mental health patient in managing their money is to identify the patterns in their behaviour when it comes to spending and managing their money. Once these patterns have been identified, changes can be made. In particular, the patient needs to be able to identify when they want to spend money, and why they want to spend it.

The next step is to consider exactly what it is about managing finances that feed into the patient’s mental health and makes it worse. For some patients, it is the thought of having to speak to a stranger in a bank or over the phone that triggers bouts of anxiety.

Simple Solutions

It is often helpful to make the patient understand that most of the effective solutions to their money issues are, in fact, simple to implement and to adhere to. For example, keeping a diary of their spending can help to make them conscious of every penny that they spend. There are now a variety of smartphone apps, which make this easier to do than ever before.

Alongside the diary of their spending, it is worth keeping a diary of their mood. This will make it easy to identify any links and correlations between the two. Developing a better understanding of how their behaviour correlates with their moods is a very important part of the process of identifying and correcting problematic behaviour.

Mental illness and money issues often go hand in hand. While it can be difficult to identify the links between the two and make the necessary modifications to the patient’s behaviour, it is well worth taking the time to do so.

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