Millionaire Hospitalized After Bipolar Spending Spree

Psychiatrists say money and sex can be tools of manic episodes.

ByABC News
February 15, 2012, 1:05 PM

Feb. 15, 2012— -- 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.

The story first was reported by the news and gossip website Gawker.

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.