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L.A. Bankruptcy Watch: Antidepressants, Shopping & Bad Debt

Blogs from January, 2013


Is it possible that antidepressants are a driving force behind the numerous debt crises with which individuals find themselves battling?


Our Woodland Hills Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers understand that’s the position being taken by a number of psychiatrists familiar with the drugs and who study the issue.

It may seem a stretch at first‚ but consider this:

We know that millions of people in this country are suffering some form of anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder‚ and a great number of those find relief in the form of antidepressants. In fact‚ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that roughly 11 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 are prescribed some form of antidepressants‚ including Prozac‚ Paxil‚ Zoloft and others.

These drugs in particular are classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors‚ sometimes referred to as SSRIs. Others are known as serotonin-norepinephrine reputake inhibitors‚ or SNRIs. Essentially‚ low levels of the body’s feel-good chemicals‚ serotonin and norepinephrine‚ is associated with a higher instance of depression and anxiety. These drugs work to disrupt the transmission of these chemicals among neurotransmitters‚ allowing you to retain more of these chemicals for longer.

The resulting effect is supposed to be that the anxiety or depression is lifted. But a side effect of that is that it can trigger a condition known as hypomania‚ or a state of euphoria.

This‚ say psychiatrists‚ has resulted in an increasing number of patients who go out on reckless shopping sprees or gambling trips and maybe even invest irrationally. In essence‚ these drugs give you a feeling of invincibility – or as the psychiatrists put it‚ “a grandiose self-perception” – that can cause you to spend unwisely‚ digging you into a deep hole of debt.

One San Diego psychiatrist was quoted as saying that about 20 percent of his patients have fallen into this pattern of reckless spending‚ and as a result‚ have gotten themselves into serious financial trouble.

When the euphoria wears off‚ they are subject to an even deeper depression when they realize where that spending has left them.

The phenomenon has become so common that it has prompted recognition from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders‚ which specifically warns treating psychiatrists on these dangers and warns them to keep a close eye for evidence of such.

As one patient put it: “When you’re on those drugs‚ you don’t care… It doesn’t allow you to see yourself through a proper perspective.” This was a woman who ended up $25‚000 in debt as a result.

Part of the problem‚ however‚ is that those in this induced state of hypomania have a hard time seeing it for what it is. Often‚ it falls to friends and relatives‚ who may be concerned to bring it up as they are simply glad to see their loved one feeling better.

But in the long run‚ a confrontation can be critical.

If you do notice it in yourself‚ it’s important that you talk with your doctor about it.

Some of the following actions have been recommended to help curb risky spending by those being treated by antidepressants:

  • Unsubscribe to any retail email advertisements. They make it too easy.
  • Avoid any places where you know you are likely to overspend. This is getting tougher‚ as online retailers make it easier than ever to impulse-buy with a few clicks. Enlist the help of your loved ones if necessary.
  • Try to find alternate uses for your new-found energy and enthusiasm. Consider maybe cleaning or gardening – something positive that won’t leave you broke.

If you do find that by the time you recognize an unhealthy pattern‚ you have fallen too deeply into debt to manage‚ consider reaching out to an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The good news is that a bankruptcy will allow you to start over fresh. We will help you carefully explore all of your options.

If you are considering bankruptcy in Woodland Hills‚ contact Cal West Law to schedule your free consultation. Call (818) 446-1334.

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