For some people, overspending might mean ordering the lobster or splurging on an extra pair of shoes at Macy's.
For Julie Fast it's different. The Portland, Oregon, author woke up one day and decided to go on a trip to China. She obtained a visa, hopped on a flight, enrolled in language school and was conversing in Mandarin within weeks. Along the way, she blew through around $10,000.
Shortly after that, and partly as a result of the impromptu and costly spree, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Wild overspending often goes along with the manic highs that, when interspersed with depressing lows, characterize the disorder, which afflicts roughly 5.7 million Americans.
"When you have manias, that voice of caution is literally taken away. It is gone," says Fast, 49, who co-wrote the book "Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder" and helped advise actress Claire Danes for her role as a federal agent afflicted with bipolar disorder on the popular TV series "Homeland."
One sufferer she knows impulsively spent $40,000 on a piece of art. Another bought an entire mini-mall - the whole building and the shops within it.
"I have known people who have used up their whole 401(k)s, who have gambled it all away, who have taken their kids' college money," she said. At the time, "it feels so good that you don't even worry or feel guilty."
WHEN SPENDING IS A SYMPTOM
Overspending is one of the primary tip-offs that someone is in a manic state, experts say.
"Typically when folks become manic, they get overconfident and lose the ability to evaluate the consequences of their actions," says Dr Jair Soares, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "In that mind-state, when it comes to spending, they are bound to get into trouble."