Financial Stress

Whether we like it or not, money is one of the universal rulers of this world. It’s a source of stress for many people who have to choose how to budget their money each month, paying bills and deciding where to put the leftover funds, if any.

What is financial stress?

Financial stress describes any negative emotions that result from the topic of money management. Many people have distressing reactions when they think about their budgets. Most must regularly figure out how to make their paychecks stretch or how to pay off debt before the interest accrues to an absurd sum. This often leads to feelings of anxiety, worry, and low self-worth. Financial stress can also cause strain in relationships, including friendships.

Everyone’s financial situation is unique, as we mostly get to decide how to allocate our money as we earn it. Money inherently introduces a sense of scarcity, as no one has unlimited funds (even though some people seem like they do!). When we budget, we must decide between what we need to pay for – and what we would like to buy. Generally, bills like rent, utilities, groceries, and car payments make the top of that list. If our budget is tight, we may push new clothes, travel, education, dining experiences or even healthcare down the line.

Types of financial stress

There are many reasons why someone might feel financial stress. Whether the person landed in the situation because of decisions they previously made, bad luck, or simply because of life circumstances, it’s up to them to take care of their money.

Some situations that cause unique types of financial stress include:

  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt
  • Home loans
  • Loss of employment
  • Retirement
  • Chronic illness
  • Terminal illness
  • Accidents like car or bike accidents
  • Damage to the home like fire, flood, or storms
  • Crime or incarceration
  • The need to support other family members
  • The upkeep of an addiction, such as drug use
  • The upkeep of toxic or abusive relationships
  • Comparison to others

All of these situations come with their own particular nuances and may manifest in different emotional reactions.

Symptoms of financial stress

Financial stress often looks similar to other types of acute stress. People who have financial stress may find themselves with:

Symptoms may also physically manifest through headaches, stomachaches, or other body aches. Some people cry when they sort through their finances from the stress of having to make big decisions, often decisions that can impact their loved ones or their happiness levels. Other people may resort to harmful behaviors to cope with their financial stress, including substance abuse or self-harm. When these reactions are constant and negatively impact daily routines, it may be time to work with a healthcare professional.

Therapy for financial stress

Most therapists address stress responses in therapy with clients. Therapists who specialize in financial stress, however, have a deep understanding of how money worries can impact an individual and family. They have the vocabulary to talk about these issues, and are often savvy around different monetary systems and processes.

Therapists with a specialization in treating financial stress may help clients build back their self-worth and self-esteem, as well as develop healthy behaviors around money. While they won’t give you advice about how to manage your money, they will validate your feelings and encourage you to find a more comfortable understanding of your current financial situation.