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I couldn’t tell my family the secret behind why I was spending so much money

My grandmother believed I had a gambling addiction.

Even though there may be a perfectly good dress (with the tags still attached) hanging in the wardrobe, it is hard to resist the temptation of a new purchase. 

An instant adrenaline rush, short-lived but deeply satisfying.

We are all guilty of spending too much money once in a while. But can spending become dangerous? It can be when you’re unable to stop because you’re depressed. 

Money and mental health have an unstable relationship. Poor mental health such as low mood and “mania” can make managing money more difficult, and worrying about money can make your mental health even worse.

Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) reported nearly nine out of ten people with significant debt problems also suffered from mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. The statistic shows how mental health can affect how you manage your money and lead to difficult financial situations.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety three years ago. During this time with the help of counseling, I finally came to terms with the fact that my mood goes up and down frequently and irregularly. It is inevitable when you have depression. What I did not expect was to spend hundreds of pounds, surrounded by the damage caused and still be feeling empty.

Because mental illness works in a funny way.

In hopes of uplifting my low mood and depression, I spend money. A lot of money. It is an internal need to, to make myself feel better. But this always leaves me in a difficult financial situation. The worst spending outburst happened during my first year at university when I had less than a fiver ($6.45) in my bank account. I only realized this after spending over £100 ($129.05) and had to return to the store the same day to refund my purchases. 

I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

My family became concerned when I opened up to them about my spending habits. My grandmother was distraught when she found out and believed I had a gambling addiction. She had created a scenario that her 20-year-old granddaughter was spending her student loan on online bingo and casino.

What she did not know was how pressure from my studies and personal issues had triggered stress and depression; and as a result, caused me to spend in a careless way. But how could she have known when I did not tell her the whole truth?

Mind, a UK mental health charity, provides information and support to those in need. Their website offers advice ranging from mindfulness, well-being and money and mental health.

The charity suggests sharing money worries with someone you trust – your partner, family or friends. It can also be a health professional if you are already seeking mental health support, such as a counselor. Also, it is important to ask for financial help when need be, as it can alleviate stress.

Another method to understand your behavior is to recognize the patterns. Thinking about when you spend money and why and what aspects of money make your mental health worse can help to find solutions. Overspending can be a problem, but also opening envelopes and managing bills.

What worked for me was writing and tracking my spending habits in a diary or journal. It is crucial to understand how much money was spent from compulsive buying as well as how much was spent on rent, bills, and food. This put things in perspective about how I should manage my money for the next month.

Feeling regretful about your expenses is highly likely. But, I’ve learned further stress and guilt about money has a detrimental impact on mental health. While this may seem impossible, particularly when you’re feeling irrational, you should try and focus on ways to improve spending habits rather than dwell too much.

If you are finding it difficult to cope with money or emotional stress, contact Samaritans or visit your local branch.