If you’ve been stressing about money, you’re not alone. Research reveals the average American has over $59,000 in debt, including credit card debt, vehicle loans, student loans and mortgages. Most Americans worry about money at some point in their lives, but if the effects of debt are causing constant anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, there may be a larger factor at play.
There’s a difference between being aware of financial issues and having serious financial anxiety regarding your debt. Keep reading to understand how stress from debt can impact your mental health and the ways to overcome it.
Psychological Effects of Debt
Stress from debt is an issue that plagues many Americans. In one survey, 52% of respondents reported being regularly stressed about financial issues. While most Americans have some type of debt, struggling to pay for essentials, such as groceries, rent or electricity, can cause serious mental health issues that make it harder to cope with stress.
In general, people with debt are more likely to face mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. If you already struggle with a mental illness, the effects of debt may cause your symptoms to worsen, making it harder to attend work and pay your bills. This can cause even more stress, anxiety or depression and create a harmful cycle that’s hard to break.
If you have a mental illness that causes manic episodes, such as bipolar disorder, you may find yourself overspending on impulse purchases, which can contribute to your debt, increase anxious feelings and trigger various symptoms of debt denial, including:
- Leaving bills unopened or stuffing them into a drawer
- Not answering the phone if you suspect it’s a collection agency
- Underestimating how much money you owe
- Opening a new credit card if your current one is maxed out
- Telling yourself everyone is in the same situation
Long-Term Health Effects
High levels of stress can manifest into physical symptoms and cause serious health complications, such as:
- Headaches or migraines
- Compromised immune system
- High blood pressure
- Digestive issues
- Muscle tension
- Anxiety or depression
- Heart arrhythmia
- Constantly feeling overwhelmed
Health issues can lead to increased medical expenses and present new financial challenges. Individuals may also develop unhealthy habits to cope with physical or mental health symptoms, such as gambling or using substances, even though these habits can further worsen your symptoms and debt.
The Link Between Financial Debt and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse and financial issues are linked in a few ways. Drugs and alcohol are expensive and can adversely affect your bank account, making it difficult to keep up with bills or afford essentials. A person with a cocaine or heroin addiction can easily spend over $10,000 a year fueling their habit.
According to one survey, 82% of respondents reported a loved one with a substance use disorder experienced severe financial issues because of their addiction. Other common responses included their loved one asking to borrow money from them, depleting their savings or filing for bankruptcy. Drug addiction can make you less productive, which may cause a decline in work performance or calling in sick more frequently. Many people lose their jobs and remain unemployed as a result of their addiction.
People already living in poverty may also use drugs or alcohol as an escape from their financial issues. Someone living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet may experience high levels of stress, anxiety, unhappiness or anger. Drugs can provide instant gratification and mask these unpleasant emotions. However, instead of solving the problem, substance abuse usually exacerbates it.
How to Overcome Debt Worries
To avoid the dangers of debt, it’s important to develop effective coping strategies that alleviate stress and mental health issues. Instead of overspending or turning to unhealthy habits, knowing how to better manage financial stress and reach out for help when it becomes overwhelming can reduce the effects of debt and make life more fulfilling.
Create a Budget
Budgeting requires a lot of discipline, but determining how much money you can realistically spend each month and sticking to it can prevent your debt from worsening. Try calculating your monthly obligations, such as rent, utilities, groceries and credit card or loan payments. Once you know how much money you spend on essentials each month, you can gauge what’s left over for luxury purchases.
Prioritize Spending Habits
Some debts are more important than others. For instance, any home-related costs, such as your mortgage, should be prioritized over credit card payments. You’ll also want to check for any unnecessary expenses, including streaming services or apps you’re paying a monthly fee for that you rarely use. Eliminating these may uncover some extra money.
Learn Stress Management Techniques
If managing your debt or budgeting becomes too overwhelming or stressful, there are several healthy coping strategies you can use to reduce these emotions. Stress management techniques include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough sleep each night
- Participating in activities you enjoy
- Avoiding excessive alcohol or drug use
- Talking to someone you trust
Seek Financial Counseling
Financial counselors are certified professionals who can review your financial situation and offer advice on best steps to reduce debt and manage your budget more effectively. They may even help you formulate a personalized budget or debt management plan to make the process less overwhelming.
Professional Help Is Available for Financial Anxiety
Financial anxiety can affect all areas of your life, not just your money. Trying to deal with it alone can worsen your mental health and make it harder to function in daily life. It’s important to acknowledge the fear or anxiety you’re feeling about your financial situation so you can seek needed help.
If the consequences of debt are negatively impacting your mental health, a better life is waiting for you. At Restore Mental Health, we offer various types of treatment, including therapy, counseling and substance abuse rehab, that can help you learn healthier mental health and stress management techniques. Contact us today and learn how our trained counselors can help.