Purdue University stated that the link between mental health and financial health are more connected than some may realize. According to Forbes, stress resulting from financial challenges is often chronic. Worries about finances came in as the No. 1 stressor in the latest CreditWise survey, released in December 2020. The results indicated that finances are the No. 1 cause of stress (73%) – being reported as a major cause of stress more often than politics (59%), work (49%) and family (46%). Financial stress was in the No.1 spot in 2019 as well as reflected in the 2019 Everyday Health United States of Stress survey. High levels of financial stress, as with other stressors, can manifest itself through physical symptoms such as anxiety, headaches/migraines, compromised immune systems, digestive issues, high blood pressure, muscle tension, heart arrhythmia, depression and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Individuals with high financial stress are twice as likely to report poor health overall and are four times more likely to complain of ailments, according to Forbes.
Understanding financial stress
If you’re worried about money, you’re not alone. Many of us, from all over the world and from all walks of life, are having to deal with financial stress and uncertainty at this difficult time. Whether your problems stem from a loss of work, escalating debt, unexpected expenses, or a combination of factors, financial worry is one of the most common stressors in modern life. Even before the global coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout, an American Psychological Association (APA) study found that 72% of Americans feel stressed about money at least some of the time. The recent economic difficulties mean that even more of us are now facing financial struggles and hardship.
Like any source of overwhelming stress, financial problems can take a huge toll on your mental and physical health, your relationships, and your overall quality of life. Feeling beaten down by money worries can adversely impact your sleep, self-esteem, and energy levels. It can leave you feeling angry, ashamed, or fearful, fuel tension and arguments with those closest to you, exacerbate pain and mood swings, and even increase your risk of depression and anxiety. You may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking, abusing drugs, or gambling to try to escape your worries. In the worst circumstances, financial stress can even prompt suicidal thoughts or actions. But no matter how hopeless your situation seems, there is help available. By tackling your money problems head on, you can find a way through the financial quagmire, ease your stress levels, and regain control of your finances—and your life.
Effects on financial stress on your health
While we all know deep down there are many more important things in life than money, when you’re struggling financially fear and stress can take over your world. It can damage your self-esteem, make you feel flawed, and fill you with a sense of despair. When financial stress becomes overwhelming, your mind, body, and social life can pay a heavy price.
Financial stress can lead to:
Insomnia or other sleep difficulties. Nothing will keep you tossing and turning at night more than worrying about unpaid bills or a loss of income.
Weight gain (or loss). Stress can disrupt your appetite, causing you to anxiously overeat or skip meals to save money.
Depression. Living under the cloud of money problems can leave anyone feeling down, hopeless, and struggling to concentrate or make decisions. According to a study at the University of Nottingham in the UK, people who struggle with debt are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression.
Anxiety. Money can be a safety net; without it, you may feel vulnerable and anxious. And all the worrying about unpaid bills or loss of income can trigger anxiety symptoms such as a pounding heartbeat, sweating, shaking, or even panic attacks.
Relationship difficulties. Money is often cited as the most common issue couples argue about. Left unchecked, financial stress can make you angry and irritable, cause a loss of interest in sex, and wear away at the foundations of even the strongest relationships.
Social withdrawal. Financial worries can clip your wings and cause you to withdraw from friends, curtail your social life, and retreat into your shell—which will only make your stress worse.
Physical ailments such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. In countries without free healthcare, money worries may also cause you to delay or skip seeing a doctor for fear of incurring additional expenses.
Unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking too much, abusing prescription or illegal drugs, gambling, or overeating. Money worries can even lead to self-harm or thoughts of suicide.
The vicious cycle of poor financial health and poor mental health
A number of studies have demonstrated a cyclical link between financial worries and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
No matter how bleak your situation may seem at the moment, there is a way out. There are strategies that can help you to break the cycle, ease the stress of money problems, and find stability again.
Getting professional advice
Depending on where you live, there are a number of organizations that offer free counseling on dealing with financial problems, whether it’s managing debt, creating and sticking to a budget, finding work, communicating with creditors, or claiming benefits or financial assistance.
Whether or not you have a friend or loved one to talk to for emotional support, getting practical advice from an expert is always a good idea. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t mean that you’ve somehow failed as a provider, parent, or spouse. It just means that you’re wise enough to recognize your financial situation is causing you stress and needs addressing.
This article is provided by Dr. Ralph Kueche (Child Psychologist). Dr. Kuechle is a Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist who specializes in treating children and their families who may be struggling with mood and behavioral issues. Learn more about Dr. Kuechle.