Panic Disorder and Overspending

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People Who Have Panic Attacks Are Like Everyone Else

People who have panic attacks are just like everyone else. They enjoy a good meal, a few cool toys, and the occasional vacation. And every so often they like to treat themselves.

It would be a gross overgeneralization to suggest that people who have panic attacks like to treat themselves a little more than the average person. However, like many people in pain, sometimes those who have panic attack seek to soothe themselves in potentially destructive ways.

Sign Of The Times

In these tough economic times not only have many people had more financial difficulties, but they have also had more emotional difficulties, particularly in an era of stagnant wages, and high unemployment. Managing money can be a challenge for everyone, even in good times. If your company announces pending layoffs, you can be sure that even if you aren’t having feeling panicky, many of your coworkers are. The feeling of having a panic attack can be terrifying. And they don’t come in one flavor. Some are like the ones Tony Soprano experienced where you simply pass out and hit the ground. Other types of panic are completely invisible to outsiders, yet no less grueling. Passing out seems like a nice option compared to having them go on for 20 minutes.

When the episode is over, it isn’t unusual for the sufferer to seek relief in any one of the many things emotionally delicate people may do. This includes overspending. Consider yourself fortunate if that is the biggest problem you or your loved one has as a result of having attacks. We’ll get to other issues later.

What Happens During A Panic Attack?

First, lets briefly discuss what panic attacks are. They are both mental and physiological. Panic attacks are not usually as dramatic as what is portrayed on television. There are sudden feelings of terror, accompanied by heart palpitations, sweating, faintness, and dizziness. During the attack, one may feel chilled, or overheated; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Dry heaving and throwing up are not uncommon.

Most of these symptoms aren’t noticeable to outsiders. However, it is ratings poison to simply show a person lying in bed or sitting on the couch doing nothing. It isn’t interesting. Instead, you might see people passing out (Tony Soprano), banging their heads against a hard object, screaming, etc… Don’t get me wrong. Those things sometimes happen, but it isn’t typical. Panic attacks are pretty boring to everyone but the person having one.


Many people with anxiety disorders do potentially risky things to avoid further pain. Some people take illegal drugs. Some people take prescription drugs (some take too many), some people overeat. Some people may also overspend, and this gets kind of tricky.

Overspending is a problem only if it harms the individual’s (or his/her family’s) finances. Buying a few things here and there is fine. You may think “maybe my husband deserves to get an Xbox 360 after all of his suffering”. That’s fine as long as it’s affordable. But what happens when buying things turns into overspending? It might not be as noticeable as an Xbox. The individual may be feeling a little tense and buy a couple books. A couple of days later, after a particularly bad day at work, your loved one may pick up a few DVDs on the way home.

When Is Spending A Problem?

If the money is available, then this sort of overspending is a coping strategy that the person believes to be successful. It probably doesn’t do anything, but who cares if you’re rich? Of course, most of us aren’t rich, or anywhere close to it. That means not only is overspending not effective at preventing panic attacks, but it presents a direct threat to the person’s finances. Like many ineffective copy strategies, the behavior tends to encourage further trouble down the road. While overspending is not physically harmful or illegal, spending beyond one’s means pose a great threat to the panic attack sufferer and those who love him or her.