One of New York City's wealthiest men went on a manic five-day spending spree, reportedly buying more than $20 million in throw pillows, furniture and wall art before checking himself in to a psychiatric clinic.
Ed Bazinet, 68 -- who, according to the book, "Richistan," by Robert Frank, made $100 million from selling miniature ceramic houses -- was hospitalized after he reportedly went wild two weeks ago at New York International Gift Fair.
Among his purchases at the gift fair, Bazinet bought nearly 100,000 units of Elizabeth W sachets, hangar covers and soaps worth $1.6 million.
Michael Lindsay, president of Elizabeth W, told ABC News that word got out at the trade show that someone chomping on a cigar was walking around making huge orders.
"I saw his name tag and knew exactly who he was," Lindsay said.
Lindsay said he questioned Bazinet, who "was getting tired of all the vendors asking him about the quantities he was purchasing."
Bazinet checked himself into the hospital, realizing he was having a bipolar incident, said his publicist, Katherine Roepke. Although she said the amount Bazinet is reported to have spent was exaggerated, she would not confirm the exact amount.
Roepke told ABC News it was the first time Bazinet had experienced a manic episode.
Today, his staff has called each vendor to cancel his orders and explain the situation, she said.
"There is no shame with seeking help for this treatable illness, and we hope that this opens a dialog to educate others," said Roepke.
Psychiatrists say that out-of-control spending is not an uncommon symptom in bipolar disorder during the high of a mood swing.
"I am not at all surprised," said Dr. Igor Galynker, a psychiatrist and the director of the Family Center for Bipolar at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "I deal in my practice with similar situations.
"When people are manic," he said, "they have an inflated self-esteem and view of themselves -- their sex appeal, their resources -- and they have the inability to process the consequences of their actions, which leads to staggering indiscretions."
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a disorder of mood and arousal. The neurological condition causes shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
Usually, a first episode happens in a sufferer's early 20s, but many people are not diagnosed until a "decade later," according to Galynker. There is no cure, but treatments are effective.
Family is important in the diagnosis.
"They have a better perspective [on the patient's behavior] and they are the ones who suffer," he said. "They get ravaged when this happens. The children and their spouses are the casualties."
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these so-called "mood episodes" are more severe than the normal ranges of life's ups and downs and can damage relationships, jobs and school performance.
One of the many symptoms is impulsive, pleasurable, high-risk behavior such as "spending sprees, impulsive sex and business investments," according to NIH.
A patient's "unrestrained spending" is different from a compulsive shopper's, according to the advocacy and support website Bipolar-Lives. In bipolar disorder, those sprees coincide with euphoria and grandiosity and "often a giddy, overly bright affect."
The compulsive shopper continues the habit year round and not in association with a manic incident.
Actress Patty Duke, the original "Parent Trap" twin, disclosed her bipolar spending in her autobiographies, "Call Me Anna," and "A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness." She described meeting two strangers in a parking lot and asking them to be business partners.
An estimated 4.4 percent of the population has bipolar disorder, according to the Family Center for Bipolar.
Ed Bazinet Could Have Mild Bipolar
Bazinet's wealth reportedly is up there with Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffet.
"The fact that he had money may mean he is not even severely manic," said Galynker, who has not treated Bazinet. "If it were severe, he would have little money, what is called the downward drift of mental illness. They don't have much status in society and cannot do much damage unless they are aggressive."
But those with Bazinet's wealth can have mild symptoms and function seemingly normally within the context of their fast-driven worlds. They can do the most damage to those around them, according to Galynker.
"Most around them don't even realize it's an acute manic episode," he said. "He can squander $2 million and then go to work. He is in a contagious good mood. These people are charismatic, attractive to women and good salesmen, and no one sees their indiscretions and poor judgment."
He called it the "Teflon factor."
Although Bazinet is well past his 20s, Galynker said the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder may have begun earlier in his life.
"And when you are hyperactive, you can be highly productive," Galynker said. "In fact, some of his fortune may have resulted from his symptoms."
Bipolar expert Dr. Ronald R. Fieve described bipolar excessive spending in his book, "Moodswing": "The lifestyle of the manic-depressive who is in a high tends to be a glorious scattering of money," he wrote.
It can also manifest itself as giving grandiose gifts to others or overspending on pornography or prostitution.
Fieve, who works in private practice in New York City and is on the faculty of Columbia Presbyterian Hosptial, said the understanding of the disorder "is not new -- it's old hat."
In 1958, he did clinical trials on the drug lithium that was a breakthrough in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
"It's been hot news lately," said Fieve. "There is hypersexuality around the world and not just spending sprees -- the whole Eliot Spitzer story and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Celebrities such as Hollywood producer Josh Logan and CNN magnate Ted Turner also have struggled with bipolar disorder.
"Most of these people are not wealthy to begin with -- they are self-made men with incredible energy and conquer the world," Fieve said. "It starts when he drops out of college at 25 and makes a couple of million by 26 and by 28 or 29 he gets $100 million. ... He gets higher and higher with minor lows and the highs get bigger.
"[Bipolar individuals] start themselves on cocaine and alcohol and that fuels the depressed side," said Fieve.
The Bazinet story is "absolutely classic," he said. "I have treated more people on Wall Street and some pretty good scandals have come into my office over the years."
But, he cautioned, it's not the money that causes the disorder, but genetics.
"Most of them have not inherited their wealth," he said. "They begin from the bottom up and go to the top. They are incredibly ambitious and extroverted and don't need more than four of five hours of sleep a night."
"They have a father, an uncle a mother or a cousin who had a suicide or abused alcohol or who was manic depressive," said Fieve. "They are born this way."
The Spending Spree
By Jeff Wuorio
For much of her life, Lynn assumed her love of spending money was nothing more than a carryover from her childhood.
“There were some warning signs, but I thought it was because I came from a family that didn’t have much money,” she says. “When I got a job, I would spend down to the last penny in my pocketbook. That’s no exaggeration.”
For Lynn, things only deteriorated from there. On top of irrational spending sprees— “I’d go to the store and end up buying things at random whether I needed them or not”—she began to bounce checks regularly. She borrowed money from every source possible. It was only when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder did she understand that her money problems ran even deeper than she thought.
“At one time I had eight outstanding payday advance loans, five of which I am still paying on. It got so bad with those that one time one of the lenders called me at work and said they were going to get me for Internet fraud because of applying for loans on the Internet and then not following through with the payment,” she says. “I ended up borrowing money from three co-workers to help pay off the most pressing loans. Nobody could believe the things I did.”
People with bipolar disorder are very much like everybody else, and how they handle money is no exception. Just as anyone, those with bipolar disorder can struggle with debt, ill-advised investment decisions, spending sprees, and other money snafus. The only trouble is, the dynamics of the disease can make the ramifications of such missteps all the more disastrous.
However, managing both a bipolar disorder condition and a healthy financial life aren’t lost causes by any means. It takes an understanding of the various ways that a bipolar disorder condition can impact your finances and, equally important, what you can do to head off any problems as effectively as possible.
One of the most common problems experienced by people with bipolar disorder are spending sprees—shopping expeditions that are really more about the spending process itself rather than any genuine desire for the items purchased.
“People use a variety of strategies to self-medicate. Shopping can definitely be one of them,” says John O’Brien, PhD, a Portland, Maine, psychologist. “They can go off on spending sprees that grow into genuine manic episodes.”
But the possibility of real financial problems isn’t limited to low periods when spending can lift a mood. As Frank Mark Mondimore, MD, a psychiatrist and member of the clinical faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, points out, the opposite can prove just as devastating. During those “up” periods in which a patient’s confidence is exceedingly—if not excessively—high, financial choices can be made that seem sensible at the time but, in retrospect, are downright foolhardy.
“One of the hallmarks of the [up] condition is overconfidence,” says Dr. Mondimore. “People can do foolish things financially and take risks they may not otherwise take.”
It’s not uncommon for financial professionals to get a firsthand view of the damage that bipolar disorder can wreak on what once was a solid financial life. Financial planner Glen Clemans says he recently started working with a female client who presented him with a $400,000 financial portfolio. While seemingly substantial, it was paltry when compared to the $1 million nest egg with which she started out shortly before.
“She initially had $1 million, but then she started day-trading stocks on the Internet,” says Clemans. “She lost about $600,000 in a manic spree. When we started working together, she told me that she suffered from bipolar disorder.”
Unfortunately, the workings of bipolar disorder are often insidious enough that the problem is difficult to detect. For many people with bipolar disorder who dive into a morass of financial missteps, they are sufficiently out of sorts that it is clear that something is not right. However, there are others, Dr. Mondimore points out, who may settle into a state of hypomania. That, he explains, is not as visibly irrational or extreme as other states, but still problematic enough to prompt financial steps and decisions that, considered under different circumstances, would be dismissed as ill-advised.
“Hypomania is less severe, so it doesn’t come off as complete disorganization. Rather, it seems more [like] an elevation of mood and energy level,” he says. “That’s where people can really get into the most financial trouble. Because they’re not so grossly disorganized, people can walk into a dealership, buy a car, and no one would think twice about it. It really is the most dangerous state.”
The confusing nature of bipolar disorder can go even further than that. As Dr. Mondimore points out, a patient who may have been in a down state for weeks or months and suddenly emerges from that bleak setting is likely to be relieved that his mood has lifted. However, feeling better doesn’t necessarily bring emotional and psychological balance.
“Another difficult part is recognizing when a down period ends and what can happen after that,” he says. “Periods of feeling good—when you can make financial mistakes—are often not recognized as abnormal mood states.”
Nor do the financial problems only come down to self-serving spending orgies. Until she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her later 40s, Jackie thought her financial generosity to various inner city religious organizations was simply the right thing to do.
“I gave them all my retirement money, thinking that was what God wanted me to do,” she says. “I also charged about $40,000 for airline tickets, hotel rooms, and other expenses. It was only when I was out from under the grandiosity of the disorder that I saw what was happening.”
Couple those issues with the sheer variety and availability to spend money recklessly and the potential for lifelong financial hardship becomes all the more problematic. From mega malls with hundreds of retailers to the Internet where tens of thousands of shopping options are a mouse click away, a person with bipolar disorder looking to spend has an unhealthy lineup of choices. Furthermore, credit card offers arrive in the mail on a daily basis. Particularly perilous are television-based shopping shows and networks where items are pitched with glamorous ruthlessness.
“Those really feed into the manic energy that many patients with bipolar disorder experience,” says Dr. Mondimore.
Fortunately, there are a variety of steps and strategies that these people and their support providers can pursue to head off financial missteps or, at the very least, minimize damage. First is a matter of simple awareness. Both the person with bipolar disorder and those close to them should get to know the warning signs that suggest that a shift in mood—and potentially, in money habits—may be around the corner.
“The real key is recognizing the red flags that can crop up. I know one patient whose mood was about to change when he started tearing out response cards from magazines,” says Dr. Mondimore. “But, they’re as individual as the person, so [recognizing these red flags] comes with experience.”
Equally important is having a comprehensive plan in place to head off irrational money decisions before they even occur. For instance, if a person with bipolar disorder maintains an investment portfolio, it’s smart to work with a trustworthy financial planner, adviser, or broker. Work out a detailed overview of financial goals and reasonable steps needed to attain those objectives. If it’s appropriate, let them know about the bipolar disorder condition.
That’s sensible on several levels. For one thing, it’s simply smart to map out a financial plan, no matter the obstacles with which you may have to deal. But it also can prove valuable to a financial advisor who knows what your goals are and what you’ve agreed to do. That way, he or she can notice those instances when a certain sort of behavior doesn’t seem appropriate.
“I can’t legally say no if, for instance, a client calls and orders a trade that doesn’t seem to make sense,” says Clemans. “But if the behavior seems odd, that can provide a check. I can either suggest that we meet face-to-face to discuss it, or I can contact a family member or friend who may be able to intervene.”
“Even if they’re fairly depressed or manic, sometimes pointing out that what they’re suggesting doesn’t fit with the plan you agreed on may work,” adds Dr. O’Brien. “Sometimes, that can cut through the emotions and, even if it doesn’t, it’s still worth a try.”
That strategy can be taken a step further, if need be. Should the potential fallout be serious enough, investigate giving a friend or loved one financial power of attorney to limit individual money decisions. Even something as simple as checking accounts where two signatures are required can make it more difficult to follow through on ill-advised financial choices.
Consider some consumer-based moves as well. If you think you can manage, go without a credit card or, as an option, one with an exceedingly modest credit limit. Investigate debit cards as an alternative. Rather than a line of credit, these are tied to a bank account and can effectively limit spending to whatever assets are in the account.
Experts and people with bipolar disorder agree that it’s imperative to stick with both a treatment plan as well as a systematic approach to getting out of debt. If, for instance, you have several credit card debts, paying off the smallest one first gives you a sense of progress. As well, consider consolidating various debts to make monthly payments more affordable.
Above all, no matter how intimidating the prospects, don’t give up. As Lynn herself notes: “It’s been a very destructive path that has cost me thousands and thousands of dollars over the past 30 years. It’ll probably take me many years to get out of that debt, but that’s something I am dealing with.”
----- Jeff Wuorio is an award-winning author and journalist who writes about finance, entrepreneurial, and workplace issues from his home in Buxton, Maine.
Bipolar Disorder and Money Management
This lens provides some practical tips and information on money management for people who are living with bipolar disorder. Who are people living with bipolar disorder? Simple. You are living with bipolar disorder if you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder OR you are the spouse, partner, or child of a person with bipolar disorder.
In today's economy, money management is a challenge for most Americans. For people with bipolar disorder, it is even more of a challenge. I am not a professional money manager nor is this lens intended to provide legal advice. Instead, it is simply a site that has its genesis in personal experience. I hope you find it helpful.
You can manage both your bipolar disorder and your money
We all need to make money. It is just a fact of today's life. Money is a necessity. We have to pay our mortgage or rent, pay for electricity, phone, cable, and water, buy groceries, and put gas in our car. We need to manage our money so we do not run out of money before we run out of month. Ideally, we will be able to manage our money so that we have enough money when the month runs out to put aside money for such things as an emergency fund, vacation funds, our kids' college education and our own retirement.
Living with bipolar disorder makes money management a daunting task. This is so because one of the classic symptoms of the "manic" pole of bipolar disorder is reckless spending. What makes it worse is that once someone is in the throes of mania, one's normal good judgment goes out the window and self-control is either extremely difficult or impossible.
Poor impulse control while in the throes of mania is one reason that people living with bipolar disorder must make a plan to prevent the disasterous consequences of mania induced spending. Such a plan must be made when one's mood is stable and one's good judgment is intact. Seeking the assistance of one's partner or even a close friend is important, indeed it is imperative. Here are some tips that I found helpful. I found this info at www.bipolar-lives.com.
(1) Monitor or restrict internet access. This will prevent on-line shopping, accessing pornography websites, and gambling.
(2) Have a plan to keep cash, credit cards, and ATM cards out of reach when an episode strikes.
(3) Consider implementing one couple's plan for protecting the family's finances. In this family, the husband and father was the person who suffered from bipolar disorder. As such, the wife/mother managed the family finances (this is an imperative really). He was given an allowance each month. The monthly allowance is deposited in an account set up just for him. He has an ATM card to access this account at all times. He also has one credit card, with a relatively low limit, that he uses to purchase things such as as gas, lunches out, gifts, books etc. Otherwise, he does not have access to the family finances. This keeps the family financially safe. It also gives the bipolar spouse autonomy and the ability to enjoy the benefits of the money that he contributes to the household. So far it has worked well. The one hardship. Not giving in! When mania hits, and he complains that he is being cheated or deprived, the wife does not give in. This is always hard. When his mood has stabalized though, they are both grateful that she has held fast and firm to the plan they both agreed upon.
(4) Have all bank statements and credit card statements sent to the spouse/partner that does not suffer from bipolar disorder. This will ensure the families finances are monitored and kept in check before disaster strikes.
(5) Avoid borrowing money from your retirement plans or from payday lenders. Borrowing from these places should be avoided at all costs.
(6) If your are sticking to your bipolar money management plan but still running out of money before you run out of month, outline your monthly spending in detail to see what can be cut or reduced. Before taking any extraordinary measures, Like borrowing money or taking a cash advance on your credit card, track spending for one month. I mean every cent. You will probably be surprised that lots od discretionary spending is going on. You will also be equally, and happily, surprised that lots of it can be eliminated with little pain.
Contains information on bipolar spending sprees, getting out of bipolar-related debt, claiming disability if you cannot work because of bipolar disorder, and a wealth of other useful info. Although I found it helpful for my chosen topic and have linked you right to that page, I also learned about things like bipolar symptoms, treatments, bipolar infidelity, and other issues.
This is an excellent article written by Jeff Wuorio, an award-winning author and journalist who writes about finance, entrepreneurial, and workplace issues. Jeff writes about the personal experiences of one woman with bipolar disorder and the devastating consequences of reckless spending.
The products and text on this website are for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the assessment, advice or treatment of a physician or therapist.
Images found for this site found from the following sources: Google Images, Animation Factory, exception personal image of Susan Young