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Effects of Debt on Your Mental Health

People with unmanageable debt often experience elevated stress levels or suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and a host of other chronic ailments

Debt, and the health issues it causes, can affect anyone, but those experiencing unemployment are especially vulnerable. Meanwhile, families, single parents, and retirees may find themselves in debt because they lack the financial flexibility to deal with economic changes and fluctuations. Military veterans are likewise at risk of debt due to the unique financial challenges they face after their service.

Debt is both a financial and a health issue. While you need to deal with the monetary side of the problem, it also helps to understand how finances can affect your psychological well-being. Here is what you should know about the connection between your mind and your money.


A study at Northwestern University found that debt increased perceived stress levels by 11.7%, and there was a strong correlation between the amount of debt and stress-related mental issues. Specifically, people can feel increased stress when their debt-to-income and debt-to-asset ratios are high, and they feel unable to manage repayment.

In addition to perceived pressure, some people show physical signs of stress, including back or muscle tension, digestive issues, headaches, and ulcers.

While it’s important to deal with these physical problems, you can also address the underlying cause of the stress by seeking an arrangement that can lower your monthly debt payments to make the situation less overwhelming.

Anxiety and Depression

People with high levels of debt can start to feel like they have no control over their circumstances. A study published in the Journals of Gerontology found a strong link between financial insecurity and depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. These concerns were generally worse in middle-aged and older people who felt they had less time to correct their situation.

In addition to seeking clinical help for any mental health concerns, you can take steps to alleviate your financial anxiety so that it doesn’t harm your mental well-being.

Mental Health Conditions

Debt is one of the most common risk factors associated with mental disorders, and those without debt have a lower risk of developing depression or anxiety.

Furthermore, the link between mental health and finances can create a negative cycle that may make it difficult for a person to recover mentally and financially. Depression, for example, can create thought patterns that dissuade people from taking the necessary steps to control their debt and manage their finances. Some people may even use additional spending as a way to cope with the situation. They may think and act this way even if debt is the primary cause of their problem.

The path out of this cycle is to deal with both financial and mental health issues simultaneously so that both the causes and the symptoms get treated.

Behavioral Changes

Financial strain can change the way a person behaves. Even if someone keeps their finance-related anxiety or depression to themselves, you may notice changes in their behavior.

These differences can include an inability to fall or stay asleep, changes in eating habits, frequent alcohol use, or reliance on other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Relationship strain

Debt often causes strain in relationships. Partners may avoid talking about finances or may be unwilling to compromise. Because of such disagreements, nearly half of all couples say finances are the biggest challenge in their relationship. Furthermore, more than half of people in a relationship feel that they are responsible for their partner’s debt after marriage.

Couples can avoid having money issues lead to relationship problems by engaging in frank financial discussions. These are especially important for those who need to make significant financial changes to manage debt.

Further financial troubles

Some people with debt also go out of their way to avoid discussing finances with others. They may even leave bank statements and credit card bills unopened because they serve as reminders of their problems.

This behavior helps people avoid the negative feelings associated with being in debt, but also makes it impossible to solve the issues that caused the financial hardship in the first place. As a result, there is a real danger of falling further into debt.

While it may be uncomfortable to do so, it is important to approach debt practically instead of letting your emotions dictate your response to the situation.

Physical Health Effects

Debt problems may also affect your physical health. In some cases, your body’s reaction to debt stress can lead to both acute and chronic health problems.

Here are some of the most common examples of physical problems related to debt:

  • High blood pressure — Individuals with debt have a higher stress level and may suffer from anxiety. Prolonged anxiety could lead to chronic high blood pressure, especially if you rely on coping mechanisms such as overeating, drinking alcohol, or smoking to deal with your stress.
  • Compromised immunity — Stress triggers a heightened response. Your body releases cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone. Increased hormones in your system from ongoing stress can suppress your immune system and leave you more susceptible to disease.
  • Increased aches — Debt stress can also lead to migraines and other headaches. A tense posture, which is a common symptom of chronic stress, can also lead to muscle tension and back pain. Furthermore, people with anxiety often complain about digestive problems, acid stomach, and ulcers.

You can take steps to deal with the mental and physical symptoms of debt by addressing both your health and your finances.

Coping With Debt and Its Health Impacts

There are many advantages to dealing with debt immediately. First of all, addressing your debt is an important step in coping with finance-related mental and physical health issues. Secondly, taking care of debt sooner rather than later can lower overall interest payments and get you on the path to a better credit score sooner than you think.

Here’s a closer look at how you can cope with both the financial and health aspects of debt.

Your finances

Take specific steps to deal with credit card debt or start the process of settling medical debts. Though some solutions may be specific to the type of debt you have, you can also take a few general steps to cope with your situation.

  • Debt settlement — The best way to deal with unmanageable debt is to negotiate a settlement. You can ask creditors to set up an alternative payment plan. Alternatively, you can use a debt settlement program to arrange manageable monthly payments.
  • Financial education — Learn to deal with your debts effectively by speaking with a financial or credit expert or taking a budgeting or personal finance management course. This knowledge can help you overcome the habits that led to debt issues.
  • Budgeting — You can also plan a budget that will help you use your income more effectively and help you plan spending without relying on loans or credit cards.

These steps will help you manage current debts and stay out of trouble in the future.

Your health

Along with controlling your finances, you can also manage your mental health to reduce debt stress and combat anxiety and depression. Here are some possible steps to help with this process:

  • Connect with other people — Many people feel ashamed about their financial struggles and keep the problems to themselves. However, relating to others, in general, can have a positive impact on your mental health. Opening up to trusted friends about your financial struggles can be helpful as well.
  • Live a healthier lifestyle — Living a healthy lifestyle, including eating a balanced diet, exercising, and creating good sleeping habits, can have a profound impact on your physical health and your mental outlook.
  • Get mental health counseling — Counseling can help you deal with any psychological issues related to your debt struggles. These professionals can help you leave the cycle of unhealthy or counterproductive coping mechanisms that hurt both your mental health and finances.

By using these methods, you can work to address your debt issues and the mental health concerns that often result.

At National Debt Relief, we take pride in empowering people to regain their financial stability through our proven debt relief program. Contact us and talk to a financial expert who will work with you to find the best option to settle your debt and help you achieve financial independence.



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