It’s more than just about feeling the pinch when you’ve maxed out that credit card. According to Sengkang Health’s Department of Psychiatry consultant, Dr Ashwin Chee (pictured): "People may overspend because they are feeling depressed. The momentary thrill of acquiring something new and nice makes one forget about their troubles. However, this is often shortlived and their mood becomes low soon after. Someone who has bipolar disorder and is currently in a manic episode can overspend too ’cos they have delusions of grandeur, thinking that they are wealthy when in reality they are not. After being treated, they are usually shocked at the amount of money they spent when they were unwell."
#1: Recognise the signs.
"When one’s financial situation becomes overwhelming, it can progress from normal worry to a clinical depression. Signs of this would be when it starts to affect a person’s sleep and appetite — they’re unable to sleep at night because they keep ruminating about their financial situation. They will also have a persistent low mood and no interest to do the things that they used to find pleasurable, such as swimming or watching a movie. Poor concentration and inability to make decisions are also signs. It can also manifest in denial — they avoid looking at the bills that are piling up, may develop a fear of answering calls as they think it could be [creditors calling], and it may even result in them shunning social contact. They’re unable to face the fact that they are in financial trouble and will continue to spend excessively. Others turn to alcohol or illicit drugs to cope with their stress. This, in turn, can not only worsen their financial problems but lead to a whole host of other physical and mental related complications. At its most severe, a person may become hopeless and have thoughts of ending their life."
#2: Speak up.
"Firstly, they must not isolate themselves. They must be able to talk about their financial stress with their loved ones. Next, they should accept their situation and take steps to control their spending. Draw up a budget which will help them live within their means. Credit Counselling Singapore Society can also help a person with unsecured consumer debt problems through credit education and debt management programmes."
#3: Listen to your loved ones.
"[Loved ones can look out for] tell-tale signs like social withdrawal and if they’re be paying as close attention to their personal appearance as compared to before. They may also notice significant changes in the person’s mood such as persistent sadness or even irritability. [Loved ones] can reflect to the person that they seem troubled by something — it can make them realise that something is wrong and will prompt them to seek help. Just listening to the person without being judgmental can be a tremendous help. One should not add salt to wounds by berating the person who is in debt and blaming them for the situation they are in."