HEALTH – Many of us suffer from stress. Very often for money matters. Moreover, a recent study conducted by Credit Sesame showed that 82% of people in debt are prone to stress. And 40% feel ashamed of it . A quarter of them have even cried because of their situation.
But if you’ve ever been in financial trouble, you know that the consequences of accumulated stress go far beyond tears. From deteriorating cognitive functions to serious illnesses , this is how the stress caused by our money problems can affect our mind and body.
Our body causes a so-called “fight or flight” reaction
The fight-flight response developed as a survival mechanism, which allowed our ancestors to react quickly to an imminent threat. When it is triggered, stress hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) are secreted to help us face the adversary standing in front of us or, conversely, to take our legs to our neck.
While we usually don’t have to worry about repelling predators in the wild, the threats of modern life, like a financial turmoil, can elicit the same kind of reaction.
“The fight-and-flight response puts a strain on the body. It wears us out, ”says Aimee Daramus , a clinical psychologist in Chicago. According to her, under the effect of this type of stress, the muscles can contract to the point of causing severe pain. This stress also interferes with the proper functioning of the immune system, making us more vulnerable to many diseases she explains.
We make bad decisions, even though we’re usually smarter than that
Even if you think of yourself as a smart and rational person, your ability to make the right choices is jeopardized by financial stress.
“Under stress, blood flow and electrical activity decrease in the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex, but increase in parts of the brain that regulate survival functions, such as the amygdala,” he adds. she. Since these parts of the brain contribute to skills such as problem solving, concentration, planning, and impulse control, poorly functioning areas can cause us to make bad decisions.
When we worry or panic about our financial situation, our decisions become more impulsive: they are driven by the need to survive. she continues. We can, for example, take out a payday loan because it solves our cash flow problem on the spot, even if we know that the interest rate is greater than or equal to 300%, or spend money in luxury goods, although we cannot afford them, because it helps us temporarily relieve our stress.
Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mental Health Problems Can Happen
Since money is an integral part of our lives, worrying about it constantly can lead to serious psychological symptoms in the long run. “When you stress because of your finances, you can become very anxious, even depressed,” says Carla Marie Manly , clinical psychologist in California.
It has been shown that being riddled with debt can have serious consequences on mental health and, in the most serious cases, lead to suicidal thoughts.
A survey conducted by The Ascent of Americans with debt of at least $ 1,000 found other links between happiness, growth, self-esteem and financial distress. Respondents said their debt affected their sleep (38%), reduced their optimism (48%), or negatively affected their self-esteem (47%). Not surprisingly, then, that 97% of participants felt they would be happier if they had no debt.
Chronic stress causes serious physical illness
Suffering from short-term stress is undoubtedly taxing on body and soul, but Carla Marie Manly points out that chronic stress can cause more serious and lasting damage.
“When adrenaline and cortisol levels are continuously elevated, physiological problems arise. Consequently, cases of heart disease, diabetes, chronic sleep disorders and other health concerns are more numerous in people who suffer from chronic stress, ”she explains.
The risks of drug use and addiction increase
A study conducted for the School of Public Health at the State University of New York found a direct link between increased financial stress and increased alcohol and tobacco use, especially among middle-aged men. High stress levels have also been shown to be an indicator of regular use of opiates , such as heroin. Often times, addiction leads to its own financial difficulties, which creates a vicious cycle of stress and drug abuse.
For the destitute, the situation is worse
While the symptoms of financial stress are very real and can be serious, there is a difference between having a hard time making ends meet and being destitute. This difference has crucial consequences for those who live below the poverty line.
“Poor people suffer because their basic needs are not met,” explains Carla Marie Manly. “We all need shelter, food, clothing and medical care. When these basic needs are not met, health is sure to suffer. ”
These consequences are especially catastrophic for children, adds Aimee Daramus, and “dangerous environments, overcrowded housing and malnutrition can lead to brain damage that is difficult to reverse.” This is because the prefrontal cortex and the frontal lobe do not develop properly, and children may, among other things, have less control over their impulses, have impaired thinking and decision-making skills, and suffer from impaired functioning. attention and concentration.
Don’t let money worries ruin your health
When you have financial difficulties, the situation can seem hopeless. It is true that the solution is rarely easy, especially for those who are struggling to make ends meet.
Try credit counseling: If you’re completely overwhelmed with your money worries and don’t know where to start, credit counseling can help. Available through nonprofits at low cost or free, it will lay out a plan to get your finances back on track. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find help near you.
Get in therapy: If your mental health is declining due to financial problems and stress, working with a therapist is helpful: they will lend you a critical ear and recommend treatment. There are ways to make the cost of therapy more affordable.
Look for healthy defense mechanisms: When we’re constantly stressed, we may be tempted to adopt unhealthy habits that exacerbate our physical and mental symptoms. This is why it is absolutely necessary to find simple and healthy ways to manage your stress, in addition to being assisted by professionals. Try running , cooking, meditation, or another relaxing activity that will help calm your nervousness and refocus.