The body’s Academy of Research and Improvement said low self-esteem and the need to achieve can both fuel the costly habit.
The study found low self-esteem led to an increase in compulsive spending over time because participants were ‘less mindful’ about spending.
Some participants reported their spending habits to be ‘automatic’ as a result of the behaviour.
The study saw 40 people take two sets of questionnaires over four months, assessing their financial situation and mental health.
Dr Thomas Richardson, clinical psychologist at Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘It is often assumed that people with bipolar disorder over-spend randomly, however these results suggest that it might sometimes be serving a purpose.
‘We found that financial problems led to thoughts about a need to achieve, so it might be that some people cope with their money worries by developing a plan to try to make money such as a risky business venture.
‘Essentially they may try to spend money to make money, which could backfire and make their financial situation worse.’
Dr Richardson, who has bipolar disorder, said this element of risk played into purchases he made as a teenager.
‘When I was manic aged 18 I went into a shop and bought five African Djembe drums at once.
‘To my friends and family this seemed like a random purchase, like I had just seen them and liked the look of them, but actually in my mind it linked to a very unrealistic and impulsive business plan I had to set up a recording studio.
‘I was trying to make myself some money for starting university but I ended up getting into debt.’
On the study’s results he added: ‘There was also a finding of comfort spending to try and cope with the depression or stress, which might come from low confidence about their financial problems.’
Hypnomania, anxiety, stress, depression and being ‘excessively generous’ to others were also found to be contributing spending factors.
For more information, advice and support on mental health visit solentmind.org.uk, bipolaruk.orgor speak to your GP.